Regional Co-operation

Regional Trade Blocs Set Sights on Grand Market
A roadmap for the establishment of Africa’s largest seamless market could be approved by March 2011. Three regional economic blocs – the EAC, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) – plan an integrated market, with a population of 500 million and a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$875bn.

Already there is in place a draft agreement that paves the way for the setting up of the free-trade area (FTA). The draft has content on rules of origin, intellectual property rights and dispute settlement, among other provisions. It also contains proposals on common rules that will govern the trade regimes and form a seamless platform. A tripartite summit would be convened by March 2011 to approve the roadmap and expedite the creation of the FTA that is expected to be the biggest in Africa.

COMESA Set to Join World’s Vibrant Blocs
COMESA could become one of the vibrant trading blocs in the world in the next two years, the Assistant Secretary General Programmes, Stephen Karangizi said. He called on member states to accept external investment, adding that COMESA is expected to generate about US$3bn-US$15bn during the first-three years after the launch of the Customs Union in June 2009.

Karangizi said COMESA’s Customs Union is intended to create Common External Tariffs, provide trade remedies and conduct trade export promotion for member states. The Customs Union has since June 2009 been given a transition period of three years, with a midterm review this month. COMESA envisages moving the member states into a single Customs Union, deepening the process of regional economic integration and establishing a Common Market by 2015.

COMESA Enhances Cross-Border Trade
Six months after the establishment of Rubavu Trade Information Desk (TID) by the COMESA, small cross-border traders have registered a boost in their business as a result of the information extended by the desk. The information desk was established to provide the community with trade information about the regional bloc.

The regional bloc that brings together 19 countries of Eastern and Southern Africa initiated the project financed by United States Agency for International Development and Trademark South Africa to provide free information on trade, fighting AIDS and individual rights to those who are crossing the border. The trade information desk targets small traders who do business across borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda with maximum capital of US$500.

Region Yet to Create Single Custom Territory
The EAC is yet to establish a Single Customs territory, because the partner states have delayed finalisation of their positions on the project. The aim of creating a single customs territory is to enable partner states enjoy economies of scale with a view to supporting the process of economic development.

The EAC Council of Ministers in 2009 adopted a roadmap for the adoption of the EAC Single Customs Territory, according to the EAC Secretary General, Amb. Juma Mwapachu. There has also been little progress towards the establishment of the EAC Competition Authority, even when the regulations that support the EAC competition law have been finalised.