AFRICAN COUNTRIES EXPECTED TO MEET OCTOBER DEADLINE TO SET UP TRADEING BLOC

NAIROBI, African countries are expected to meet an October deadline to establish the continent’s largest trading bloc by the end of 2017, says the Secretary-General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Sindiso Ngwenya.

He told Xinhua here Sunday that 21 out of 26 countries have so far signed an agreement to merge three sub-regional blocs.

“The formation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area by combining the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and COMESA is going on as planned,” said Ngwenya, who was in Nairobi as head of the COMESA Election Observation Mission to monitor Kenya’s general election on Tuesday.

Ngwenya said the remaining five countries which are yet to ratify the agreement had made tremendous progress toward domesticating the deal. In addition, two African states have also expressed interest in joining the new economic bloc. “By the end of the year, Somalia and Tunisia will also come on board to join the Tripartite Free Trade Area,” Ngwenya said.

Somalia also plans to resume its membership in COMESA, which it lost following the outbreak of civil war in that country. “Now that stability has begun to return to Somalia, the Horn of Africa nation will become a member of COMESA again during the COMESA Heads of State and Government Summit to be held in October,” Ngwenya said.

The Tripartite Free Trade Area will comprise 28 countries, cover approximately 18.3 million square kilometres and account for about 61 per cent of the continent’s population.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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