The just concluded Tripartite Summit ended with 26 countries seeking to merge their economic blocs into a single regional market, proposed to be the largest free trade area in Africa, with a population of over 527 million people and a combined GDP of $624 billion.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) are also determined to work towards the organization of a single customs union.
The Kenyan president said the summit provides the three economic blocs with an opportunity to establish a cooperation framework and create an environment in which millions of people can be lifted out of poverty.
The chairman of the EAC, Mr. Jakaya Kikwete described the summit as a historic meeting that we see as long over due. ‘It is my hope that the summit will come to a decision where we have a strong and united bloc,’ he said.
Mr Mwai Kibaki President of Kenya said the summit heralded the start of an unprecedented process of great significance for both our region and the entire African continent. ‘Let this summit be the first step in an unstoppable march towards an integrated Africa. Our nation’s founding fathers realised a dream of regional economic integration. We must move their dream a level higher by looking beyond our regions and realising that this tripartite summit can lay the most formidable foundation in our long cherished dream of an African Economic Community.’ Mr. Kibaki added.
The formation of the free trade area by the three blocs will, however, have to overcome a number of hurdles, especially the multiple memberships of some countries to various trade blocs and fear by the weaker economies of being flooded by goods from their stronger counterparts like South Africa and Egypt.
Amongst other attendees at the summit were Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, chairman of the EAC, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.