COMESA Takes over Leadership of the Tripartite Group
(Left to right – COMESA Secretary General, Sindiso Ngwenya, taking over from Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko, Secretary General of the EAC)
(COMESA) - COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya is the new chair of the Tripartite Task Force that brings together three regional economic communities, namely COMESA, the East African Community and the Southern Africa Development Community.
He took over from Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko, Secretary General of the EAC during a brief handing over ceremony conducted at the headquarters of the EAC in Arusha, Tanzania, Friday, 17 November 2017.
The role of the Tripartite Task Force is to coordinate the implementation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) work programme and serves as the Secretariat of the Tripartite Policy organs. It is made up of the Chief Executives of the three RECs.
In his acceptance statement, Mr. Ngwenya said: “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done for the Tripartite FTA Agreement to enter into force,” he said and thanked the outgoing chair for the progress made during his tenure.
The last time COMESA held the mantle was in 2014 - 2015 when it successfully steered the tripartite team to the historical launching of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area before handing over to SADC. The position of the Task Force Chairperson is for a duration of one year after which it rotates to the next REC.
At the launch of the TFTA, 15 out of the 26 countries that comprise the tripartite signed the Free Trade Agreement on the spot. The rest of the States said they needed more time to complete their internal processes before signing the documents, which are binding international agreements. Since then, six more countries have signed bringing the total number of signatories to 21.
The Tripartite FTA was conceived to address conflicting policies and regulatory frameworks arising from multiple membership of the countries in COMESA, EAC, and SADC. Besides, small markets cannot support critical levels of investment and rationalize large infrastructure projects.
“By providing a single economic space with harmonized trade policies and regulatory framework, the Tripartite FTA solves the problem of multiple membership, reduces the cost of doing business, and supports industrialization and cross border infrastructure projects,” Mr. Ngwenya said.
Countries that signed are expected to proceed to the next level of the ratification process through their legislative assemblies. The Agreement will come into force once ratification is attained by three quarters of the Member States. Currently only Egypt has signed and ratified the Agreement. A minimum of 14 countries are required to ratify the Agreement for it to come into force.
Since the launching, the number of countries have increased to 27 with the entry of South Sudan as a partner State of the EAC. Currently, the combined Gross Domestic Product of the Tripartite is USD 1.47 trillion and a population of 674 million.
Mr. Ngwenya thanked the African Development Bank (AfDB) for providing part of the financial resources to support awareness creation and advocating for the ratification of the Agreement by the Tripartite Member/Partner States that have signed it.