By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka - Namibia has ratified the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) treaty, making it the eighth country to append its signature amid expectations of at least six more states responding and operationalising the model before the close of this year.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area seeks to combine the Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) into the largest free trade area on the continent.
Namibian High Commissioner to Zambia, Siyave Haindongo, said in Lusaka this week his country ratified the TFTA on 20 January on conviction of benefiting from the real returns to be adduced from the model, having signed the agreement in June 2015 in Egypt.
Namibia, he said, appended its signature to the TFTA model since it appended and signed the agreement in June 2015 during the African Union Heads of States Summit in Sharmar Sheikh, Egypt, and is optimistic about its success as adduced from the outlined plan.
Receiving the instruments on behalf of the TFTA taskforce committee, COMESA secretary general, Chileshe Kapwepwe, challenged member states to support the operationalisation of the TFTA before the end of this year and overcome surmountable challenges.
Kapwepwe outlined, among other challenges faced by Africa and partner states, inadequate production bases for members and partner states.
This has forced affected members and partners to export a few primary commodities outside the modus operandi which allows for right commodities being produced and competitively availed to the market.
Other concerns needed to be redressed are the type of goods produced in the region as well as the technological content of those goods to increase the quantum of high-technology content of exports from member/partner states.
This, it is envisioned, will increase the incomes from trade and reducing the vulnerability of the tripartite economies in external shocks and in the long-run, a decline in prices of the resource-based and primary commodities.
Kapwepwe noted that despite the number of challenges, Africa can attain regional integration with competitiveness and that can be done by operationalising the TFTA based on a model which seeks to ensure right commodities are produced and competitively availed to the market.
Most economies of member states in Comesa, East African Community and the Southern African Development Community are resource-based with primary commodities accounting for 40% to 90% of their total exports, a major setback to growth.
“This has resulted in an expensive extractive sector in the region, with limited linkages to other sectors in the region, with limited linkages to other sectors of the economies. This scenario has rendered many of our member/partner states vulnerable to extractive shocks,” she said.
Kapwepwe has since encouraged other member states to consider their position and ratify the TFTA treaty. The success of the continental free trade area was cardinal to enhance competitiveness with the rest of the trading blocs.
She noted TFTA, upon launching in Shamar Sheikh in June 2015, was premised on unique development challenges of the region, which is the developmental approach to regional integration, based on the three pillars of ‘market integration, industrial development and infrastructure development.
The theory is borne out of the realisation of the complementarity existing between trade liberalization, competitiveness in industrial production and infrastructure development. The TFTA model espouses a value chain approach to exploitation and processing of commodities within the region to address the constraint faced by countries and partners.