Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Cape to Cairo: Exploring the Tripartite FTA Agenda


Cape to Cairo: Exploring the Tripartite FTA Agenda

Cape to Cairo: Exploring the Tripartite FTA Agenda

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On 22 October 2008 in Kampala, Uganda, the Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreed to establish a grand Free Trade Area, which is now referred to as the Tripartite FTA (T-FTA). This is supposed to encompass all 26 Member States of the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Apart from the economic imperative arising from such an enlarged regional market, the T-FTA initiative has received wide support as it was expected to address the problem of conflicting trade regimes due to overlapping memberships of most members in the three RECs.

The Trade Law Centre (tralac) has been following this development with keen interest through the publication of three books focusing on the T-FTA process.

The first book presented an economic impact assessment of the T-FTA, with particular focus on agriculture and agri-business development. The second book, published in 2011, delved more deeply into a range of issues relevant to making the T-FTA work, drawing from Africa’s experience of grand schemes, weak legal and institutional foundations for a rules-based dispensation of regional integration, and an implementation record that demonstrates very little serious commitment. The third book, published in 2012 and influenced by an explicit decision by Member States to include the infrastructure and industrial development pillars, aimed at encouraging an enquiry and new thinking about the African paradigm of regional integration, specifically about the nature, design and architecture of a T-FTA to address the region’s fundamental development challenge, i.e., the inadequate capacity to produce goods and services competitively.

This fourth book presents a collection of papers that explore a range of issues that are shaping important debates about the T-FTA in particular and the African regional integration agenda more generally. During the past five years there has been a sea change from the vision of the T-FTA as a grand FTA integrating the 26 Member States of COMESA, EAC and SADC, to a much less ambitious plan for only those Member States that are not parties to FTAs to engage in negotiations. This book includes an analysis of the implications of the ‘clarification’ of the T-FTA Negotiating Principles. It is now clear that the T-FTA will not address the problem of overlapping membership. What would happen if a smaller group of ‘willing participants’ decided to integrate at a faster pace? Two country case studies (Malawi and Rwanda) are also included; they provide insight into the important questions that Member States are engaging to assess what’s in the T-FTA for them.

Two chapters focus on industrial development issues. The industrial development pillar of the T-FTA requires innovative approaches to addressing the region’s competitiveness challenges. What are the options to support regional industrial development? Energy sector development and climate change issues, both integral to the development of the region’s integration plan, are also addressed in the book.

T-FTA developments are important not only for the eastern and southern African region; they also provide a reality check on the feasibility of establishing a Continental Free Trade Area by (indicative date) 2017.

© 2013 Trade Law Centre and the Swedish Embassy, Nairobi.

Publication of this book was made possible by the support of the Trade Law Centre (tralac) and the Swedish Embassy, Nairobi. The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the view of any of these institutions.

Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce the material contained in these books for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. Please contact us to obtain authorisation for reproducing this material.


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