Africa. Picture: ISTOCK
Africa. Picture: ISTOCK

Parliament has begun the ratification process of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement, which will create an integrated market between 26 African countries.

Parliament’s trade and industry committee was briefed on the agreement on Wednesday by Department of Trade and Industry chief director Wamkele Mene, who said ratification by SA would send a strong signal of its commitment to regional integration.

SA is also engaged in negotiations on the Continental Africa Free Trade Area and the department’s director-general, Lionel October, told the committee that it was now ready to sign it.

SA signed the TFTA agreement in July 2017. It will enter into force once it has been ratified by 14 member states. So far only Egypt, Uganda and Kenya have ratified it.

The TFTA will include members of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African States (Comesa) and the East African Community.

These countries have a combined gross domestic product of $1.2-trillion and a combined population of about 626-million people.

Some TFTA countries, such as Rwanda, Ethiopa and Tanzania, are among the fastest-growing economies on the continent.

SA’s trade with TFTA countries represents about 16% of its total trade with the world. In 2017 SA’s total trade with TFTA countries amounted to $27.6bn.

"SA will build on its current share of the African market and have access to a larger, more integrated and growing regional market. This has the potential to stimulate industrial development, investment and job creation," Mene said.

He said the TFTA would facilitate the harmonisation of trade regimes between member countries; the free movement of business persons; development of regional value chains; and legal and institutional arrangements for regional co-operation.

Phase one of the negotiations dealt with trade in goods. Phase two would address investment, trade in services, intellectual property and competition policy.