Economy

Merger of 3 economic regions to create Africa’s largest free trade zone

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Mr Sindiso Ngwenya, the Comesa secretary-general and chair of a tripartite taskforce on the planned merger. PHOTO | FILE

Three African economic blocs will merge into a new 27-nation free-trade zone in an agreement to be signed in Cairo in June when Heads of State from the regions meet at a joint summit.

The deal will combine the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the South African Development Community (SADC), and the East African Community (EAC).

This will create a free trade union capturing more than 60 per cent of the continent’s economic activity and investors will easily reach a market of 625 million consumers from South Africa to Egypt.

A preliminary programme released by Mr Sindiso Ngwenya, the Comesa secretary-general and chair of a tripartite taskforce on the planned merger, indicates that the leaders of the 27 member States are expected to congregate on June 10 to sign the Free Trade Area (FTA) agreement.

“The tripartite FTA popularly known as the grand Free Trade Area will be the largest economic bloc on the continent and the launching pad for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in 2017,” Comesa said.

SADC, EAC and the Comesa have since 2008 been negotiating a road map to merge into a free trade area with a GDP of about $1.2 trillion (Sh109 trillion).

“The launching of the tripartite Free Trade Area is the first phase of implementing a developmental regional integration strategy that places high priority on infrastructure development, industrialisation and free movement of business persons,” Comesa said in a brief.

Although African economies are growing fast, second only to Asia, the continent has attracted criticism over its slow pace of integration.