HARARE-The African Union chairman President Robert Mugabe has left Harare for Sharm-el Shekh, Egypt, for the launch of the Tripartite Free Trade Area, comprising Comesa, SADC and the East African Community.
The TFTA brings together 26 member states whose leaders will sign the agreement on Wednesday. It also unites a population of 625 million and a gross domestic product of US$1,2 trillion. It accounts for half of the membership of the African Union and 58 percent of Africa’s GDP.
The decision to launch the Tripartite Free Trade Area was reached in Burundi in October 2014 after taking into account the fact that the majority of the tripartite member states agreed on ambitious tariff offers and rules of origin to be applied.
The launch of the TFTA is the first phase of the implementation of a developmental regional integration strategy.
Popularly known as the grand free trade area, the TFTA will be the largest economic bloc on the continent and a launch pad for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area in 2017.
It places high priority on infrastructure development, industrialisation and free movement of businesspersons.
The business community in particular will benefit from an improved and harmonised trade regime which reduces the cost of doing business due to the elimination of overlapping trade regimes due to multiple memberships.
Benefits of the TFTA include trade growth, reduction or elimination of tariffs to reduce the transaction costs across the continent and boosting intraregional trade.
This is Mugabe’s 15th trip since January and will be at the forthcoming AU Summit on 14-15 June in South Africa.