Heads of State from Eastern and Southern African countries signed a historic agreement on June 10, 2015 to officially launch the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) that brought 26 countries from ‘Cairo to Cape’ under one common market. Often, African regional economic communities are, perceived as elitist and government-to-government cooperation, partly because of lack of participation from citizens of Member States.
CUTS deemed it necessary to ensure that integration processes are owned by people – the actual beneficiaries, as traditionally there were weaknesses in this. One way of achieving this was through coalition-building through among non-state actors whose experiences and aspirations needs to be reflected in the integration process, especially in areas impacted by trade-led economic integration like agri-business, climate change and gender/women’s empowerment.
Against this backdrop, CUTS Nairobi with financial support from Oxfam’s Pan-African Programme initiated a project referred to as, ‘Integrating Voice of CSOs in Regional Integration in Eastern & Southern Africa’ referred to as the IVoRI-ESA or IVoRI-III project.
The idea was to build awareness and capacity of non-state actors in Eastern & Southern African countries, and establish a dynamic network to gather inputs and views for effective implementation of the TFTA. CUTS would develop a forward-looking ‘Engagement Framework and Action Agenda’ that specifies roles and responsibilities of national governments, regional authorities, business community and civil society organisations in the region. This would be shared with the three RECs (COMESA-EAC-SADC) and with other developmental actors in the region, to create buy-in and establish synergies.
This ‘Engagement Framework’ would help create a system for two-way movement of information from the beneficiaries to the implementers of the TFTA, and vice-versa. It would help to bring impacts of TFTA closer to the ground.