Of course, there are a number of outstanding issues (for example. B the customs liberalisation plan, exceptions, trade means and rules of origin) that need to be resolved – these can still affect the ability of the free trade agreement to make a real difference. At this stage, the free trade agreement deals only with trade in goods – trade in services and other important issues will be discussed at a later date. Last June, at a summit in Cairo, the heads of state and government of three of these ICCs – ABC, COMESA and SADC – launched the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which involves 26 countries, for a total of 632 million people, or 57% of Africa`s population, and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $1,300 billion (2014). The launch of the TFTA was the culmination of a process that began in 2008 with the first tripartite summit in Kampala, Uganda. However, it is not yet time to celebrate. The agreement must be ratified by 14 members before it enters into force. After it enters into force, the agreement will remain open to the accession of other AU member states. The tripartite free trade agreement brings together 28 member countries of COMESA, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The second challenge is political.
On 15 July 2015, Burundi held controversial elections, boycotted by the political opposition. The president-in-office, H. E. Pierre Nkurunziza, easily won under these conditions. There was an attempted coup and instability before the elections, and the ensuing period was marked by instability, violence and even greater threats of violence that led to the exodus of refugees to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda. In South Sudan, a civil war has been raging since December 2013 between forces loyal to President Salvar Kiir and his former vice-president, Riek Machar. As a result, some customs and trade capacity building projects in both countries have been suspended or delayed and the effects have been felt throughout the region. Within the 26-member TFTA, there are countries threatened by major conflicts or conflicts such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt and Libya.
Other TFTA countries are preparing for political transitions, such as Tanzania (2015), Rwanda (2016) and Kenya (2017). Peaceful elections and political transition are good for regional integration. Despite the challenges, we remain optimistic that the ABC will not only continue to integrate, which will eventually generate benefits through trade facilitation, but that the TFTA may lead other IPCs in Africa to produce such mega-UC.