AFP - Senior officials of three African economic blocs met in Egypt yesterday to start hammering out details of a free trade agreement that could develop a common market spanning the continent.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) is to be launched at a summit of heads of state and government on Wednesday in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, aimed at establishing a common framework for tariff preferences along with other commitments.
The deal between the East African Community, Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa will create a market of 26 countries with a population of 625 million and gross domestic product worth more than $1 trillion (900 billion euros).
Senior officials from the three economic blocs began discussing the details of the deal yesterday.
“Today, we opened the preparatory meeting of senior officials. Details of our discussions will be presented tomorrow at the meeting of ministers,” Francis Mangeni, director for trade at COMESA told AFP on the sidelines of the meeting.
The much-awaited TFTA has been widely welcomed by world business leaders, with experts highlighting the fact that just 12 percent of African countries’ total trade is with each other.
“The launching of the TFTA 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,” organisers said on the website of the June 7-10 conference.