SHARM EL SHEIKH (EGYPT), June 9 — President Robert Mugabe in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt for an African Heads of State and Government Summit to launch an ambitious Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) by three African regional groups.

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

It will initially be made up of 26 countries, and is meant to foster deeper economic integration on the continent.

The union will create a combined market of 625 million people with a collective gross domestic product of $1.2 trillion.

Comesa, which is the biggest of the three blocks, brings to the tripartite 19 member states and a population of over 490 million.

Mooted over a decade ago, the TFTA – also referred to as the Grand FTA – will be the largest economic bloc on the continent.

It is expected to be the launch pad for the Continental Free Trade Area, which will promote free trade and economic integration in Africa.

Launch of the Continental Free Trade Area will be a step in the long road towards the ultimate goal of establishing a monetary union in the mould of the Euro Zone.

President Robert Mugabe, who is the chairman of the African Union as well as Sadc, will lead other Heads of State and Government at the launch of the TFTA at the Egyptian summit taking place from June 7 to 10.

The tripartite FTA builds on the free trade areas launched individually by the three regional economic blocs.

Comesa secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya said the main reason for the launch of the grand TFTA was to remove inconsistencies and costs related to overlapping membership to the different groups.

Some countries such as Zimbabwe belong to both Sadc and Comesa, while one member of the EAC, Tanzania, is also a member of Sadc.

“The tripartite is not a new legal structure neither is it a new regional economic community. It is an attempt to merge the regional organizations into the African Economic Community,” Ngwenya said in a paper on the establishment of the TFTA.

“Through developing its large internal market, Africa and producers in the continent will be in a position to compete globally.”

The objectives of the TFTA, Ngwenya said, will be achieved through harmonisation of policies and programmes across the three regional economic communities in the areas of trade, customs and infrastructure development.

The vision of the TFTA is centered on market integration, infrastructure development and industrial development.

SOURCE: New Ziana