…An advice from the ex-president to SADC member states
FORMER President Jakaya Kikwete has advised Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states to properly utilise the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement to boost economic growth in the continent.
In recent years, several African economic blocs - the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and SADC - have signed and adopted various agreements related to trade but a few, or none, have been ratified and operationalized.
He said all regional integrations at this period basically focused on boosting economic growth; it was thus high time African states considered such platforms as a road towards economic liberalisation.
In an interview ahead of the 39th SADC Summit scheduled for next Saturday and Sunday in Dar es Salaam, Mr Kikwete noted that being a member of more than one regional integration, it was a right move that should be capitalised on for sustainable economic development. “We (Tanzania) are members of the EAC.
At the same time we are in the SADC...there are other countries which are also in the COMESA. There is no problem with this. No even conflict of interest. We must utilise such opportunities,” he said.
He noted that tripartite agreement covering three Africa’s regional communities - the COMESA, EAC and SADC aimed at accelerating economic integration for the people of the Eastern and Southern African region.
The tripartite FTA brings together a population of 700 million people with an estimated Gross Domestic Product of well over US$1.4 trillion. It is envisaged that the TFTA will help improve intra- Africa trade by eliminating and reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers.
“The main aim of the tripartite was to contribute to the broader objectives of the African Union that is accelerating economic integration of the continent and achieving sustainable economic development, leading to poverty alleviation and improvement in quality of life for the people,” he asserted.
The COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite that was reached in 2015 in Egypt, initially covered 26 member states across the three regional economic communities, but with the expansion of the EAC to include South Sudan in April 2016, the total number of participating member states has risen to 27.
The former president also called on African states to make sure that business environment is improved to attract more investors. He said that as most of the African countries were pushing for industrial economy, the role of the private sector remained vital. “It is not the role of the government to build industries. T
he government just creates a conducive environment for investors and sets up the necessary infrastructure,” said the ex-president.
Mr Kikwete, who was Tanzania’s foreign affairs minister 16 years ago when the East African nation hosted the SADC summit under President Benjamin Mkapa, hinted that a number of southern African countries remained behind in the ‘ease of doing business’ compared to other countries in the world.
“To be honest, we are not doing fine in this aspect.
We are being lowly ranked when it comes to ease of doing business. Indices developed by the World Bank, Mo Ibrahim and that of World Economic Forum are suggesting that we are far behind,” he said, calling on the governments to work on such reports.
He noted that it was only Mauritius in the region that scored highly, not only in the continent but also in the world.