he Secretary General of the East African Community, Hon. (Dr.) Peter Mathuki has taken over from SADC Executive Secretary, Dr. Stergomena Tax, the Chairmanship of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Task Force (TTF) for the next one year. The Tripartite held its 33rd meeting on 8th June 2021 in which Dr. Tax handed over the rotational chairmanship.
Making his remarks during the hand-over ceremony held virtually, Dr. Mathuki commended Dr. Tax for her exemplary leadership over the past year. He specifically noted the commitment and dedication exhibited by Dr. Tax, especially when the implementation of agreed activities was impeded by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Mathuki pledged to ensure continued collaboration amongst the RECs for their mutual benefit, particularly in enabling the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) entry into force by championing Partner States who have not ratified the TFTA Agreement to do so soon.
“The signing and ratification of the TFTA Agreement is critical as it will pave the way for the successful implementation of our programme,” noted Dr. Mathuki.
The Secretary General underscored the importance of the TFTA in improving the economic and social welfare of the citizens of the COMESA-EAC-SADC region through the promotion of regional economic growth by creating an enabling environment for regional trade.
So far, 22 COMESA-EAC-SADC Partner States have signed the TFTA Agreement while 10 Partner States have ratified the Agreement. Article 39(3) of the TFTA Agreement.
In the EAC, the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have ratified the TFTA Agreement. The United Republic of Tanzania is at advanced stages of the ratification process, while the Republic of South Sudan is yet to sign the Agreement.
Dr Tax expressed gratitude to the Secretaries General of COMESA and EAC and the technical teams from the Secretariats of COMESA, EAC and SADC for the cooperation, support and dedication which enabled the Tripartite Task Force to register significant milestones notwithstanding the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During her tenure, member States that have ratified the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement (TFTA) increased from six to 10. Dr Mathuki will be expected to fast-track the ratification of TFTA Agreement to reach the threshold of 14 Partner States required for the Agreement to enter in force.
Besides, the approval of Harmonised Tripartite Guidelines on Trade and Transport Facilitation Guidelines for Safe, Efficient and Cost-Effective Movement of Goods and Services during the COVID-19 pandemic was achieved.
Other milestones attained during SADC’s tenure as Chair of the Tripartite Task Force include Draft Tripartite Agreement on Movement of Businesspersons; Draft Annex 1 on Elimination of Import Duties to the Agreement Establishing a TFTA Agreement and Draft Annex II on Trade Remedies to TFTA Agreement.
Others include Draft Annex IV on Rules of Origin to the TFTA Agreement, and Draft Annex X on Dispute Settlement Mechanism to the TFTA Agreement; Vehicle Load Management Agreement; Multilateral Cross Border Road Transport Agreement; Vehicle Load Management Model Law; Cross Border Road Transport Model Law; Road Traffic Model Law; Road Traffic and Transport Transgressions Model Law; and Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road Model Law.
These Legal instruments will be presented to Council during its next meetings and are expected to facilitate effective operationalization of the TFTA.
“EAC will be committed to carry forward the work started by the outgoing Tripartite Task Force Chairperson by, among others, mobilising outstanding Partner States to ratify the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement to achieve a united Africa in which goods and services move seamlessly across the continent,” Dr. Mathuki said.
The main aim of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite is to strengthen and deepen economic integration of the southern and eastern Africa region through joint planning, design, coordination, and implementation of joint policies and programmes across the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in the areas of trade, customs and infrastructure development, and industrialization.
The Tripartite provides a platform to address overlapping REC memberships.
Besides, the SADC Executive Secretary and EAC Secretary General, the 33rd Tripartite Taskforce meeting was attended by the Secretary General of COMESA, Her Excellency Chileshe Kapwepwe, and Directors, Senior Officials and Technical Experts from the COMESA, EAC and SADC Secretariats.