- The changeover was conducted by teleconference on Tuesday, during the 31st Meeting of the Tripartite Task Force (TTF)
- COMESA has chaired the TTF since November 2017.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) on Wednesday handed over the stewardship of the Tripartite group of regional economic communities (RECs) to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
The Tripartite brings together three RECs, including the East African Community (EAC) into a cooperative framework on the implementation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement (TFTA) that was launched in 2015.
The changeover was conducted by teleconference on Tuesday, during the 31st Meeting of the Tripartite Task Force (TTF) made up of the Chief Executives of the three RECs. COMESA has chaired the TTF since November 2017.
Speaking while handing over, the outgoing chair and Secretary general Chileshe Kapwepwe outlined key accomplishments that the Tripartite group has achieved in its three pillars: Market Integration, Infrastructure Development and Industrial Development.
Under market integration, 22 countries out of 28 have now signed the TFTA Agreement, while eight have signed and ratified. The eight include Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Botswana and Namibia.
Only four remains to reach the 14 States threshold to operationalize Agreement while Comoros, Eswatini, Malawi, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe are at advanced stages of ratification.
COMESA is a regional economic community established in 1994 bringing together 21 African member states with a population of 560 million people into a cooperative framework for sustainable economic growth and prosperity through regional integration.
“As I hand over to SADC, the ratification of TFTA Agreement especially with Zambia, Zimbabwe, Comoros, Tanzania, Sudan, Eswatini and Malawi is one of the activities that will need active follow-up,” Kapwepwe said.
In regards to addressing Non-Tariff Barriers, Kapwepwe said 25 partner States have established focal points and National Monitoring Committees (NMCs) who are currently utilizing the Tripartite NTBs online monitoring, reporting and elimination mechanism.
“Over this period, the Tripartite NTBs Short Messaging (SMS) reporting tool was developed and rolled out. The tool is presently installed in partner States including Comoros, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe,’’ she said.
Other accomplishments listed include the adoption by Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee of the Agreement on Movement of Businesspeople and is presently awaiting signing and ratification by member States.
Further, Sanitary and Phytosanitary and Technical Barriers to Trade (SPS/TBT) risk profiling and risk assessment were completed for 10 countries.
The EAC and Southern African Customs Unions (SACU) finalized their bilateral Tariff Offer negotiations on products that are subject to immediate liberalization. EAC and Egypt have also concluded their negotiations, while those between SACU and Egypt, are also nearing completion.
Under the Infrastructure pillar, Kenya, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe signed the commitment on operationalisation of the Single African Air Transport Market under the Yamoussoukro Declaration on liberalization of Access to Air Transport Markets in Africa.
SADC said it was taking over the stewardship of the group at a critical time of crisis occasion by COIVD-19 pandemic.
“We may have to re-look at the tripartite implementation plans and prioritize what can be done in the prevailing environment that we are all in,” deputy executive secretary of SADC in charge of Regional Integration, Thembinkosi Mhlongo said.
He noted, that the implementation of activities under the industrialization pillar has been slowed down by resource constraints.