AFRICA’S current integration landscape contains an array of regional economic communities, including eight recognised as the building blocks of the African Union.
These eight are Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), The Community of Sahel - Saharan States (CEN-SAD), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
Others are East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of Central African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The regional economic communities are expected to serve their member States with the implementation of the regional integration agenda through key pillars that include promotion of inter-regional trade, macroeconomic policy convergence, peace, security stability and governance and harmonisation of sectoral policies.
Member States, like Tanzania, are for either historical, political or economic reasons, members of more than one regional economic community. We are members of EAC and SADC.
There have been views in the past that our dual membership was a liability to our country. That, it would be better we chose either East or South. H owever, the views have become irrelevant with new developments to promote integration in the continent.
We are referring to a historical launch of the Tripartite Free Trade Area at the 3rd Tripartite Summit in June, 2015 in Sharm el Sheikh- Egypt.
The COMESA-EACSADC Tripartite, an umbrella organisation consisting of three regional communities was launched to accelerate economic integration for the people of the Eastern and Southern African Region.
That was followed by establishment of a bigger regional block, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) which has been established with the same objective of promoting regional integration.
The new free trade area is expected to be one of the world’s largest single markets, accounting for $4 trillion in spending and investment across the 54 countries.
It aims at forming a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and expanding intra African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation and facilitation regimes and instruments across RECs and across Africa in general.
These new developments in Africa present a big opportunity for Tanzania to foster growth and development through inter-regional trade.
A look at the demographic strength of the two regional communities EAC and SADC will probably help to drive the message home.
SADC region has a population of 327 .2 million by 2017 estimates and EAC region has 17 2 people by 2017 which means access to a much larger market for our entrepreneurs.
While the potential market in the SADC and EAC regions are the opportunities, we should look to use our strategic geographical location and the current government’s efforts to improve business and investment environment as our strength as we focus on a bigger continental picture in our local manufacturers as well as our services sector because it has been recognised that deeper integration not only of trade in goods, but also of their services markets holds great economic potential.