COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite/Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA)


The Tripartite is an umbrella regional organization that consists of three of Africa’s regional economic communities (RECs). A REC is a partnership of neighboring countries pursuing a joint economic and political initiative. The Tripartite is comprised of the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The Tripartite includes 26 countries with a total population of 625 million people:

  • EAC: Republic of Burundi, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania, and Republic of Uganda
  • COMESA: Republic of Burundi, Union of the Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Djibouti, Arab Republic of Egypt, State of Eritrea, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Republic of Kenya, Libya, Republic of Madagascar, Republic of Malawi, Republic of Mauritius, Republic of Rwanda, Republic of Seychelles, Republic of the Sudan, Kingdom of Swaziland, Republic of Uganda, Republic of Zambia, Republic of Zimbabwe
  • SADC: Republic of Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kingdom of Lesotho, Republic of Madagascar, Republic of Malawi, Republic of Mauritius, Republic of Mozambique, Republic of Namibia, Republic of Seychelles, Republic of South Africa, Kingdom of Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Republic of Zimbabwe

The purpose of the Tripartite is to contribute to the objectives of the African Union – "[a]n integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena."

The Tripartite Vision is to improve the economic and social welfare of the citizens of the COMESAEAC-SADC Tripartite region by promoting regional economic growth and creating a favorable environment for regional trade.

The regional integration program of the three RECs focuses on expanding and integrating trade and includes instituting infrastructure development projects in transport, information and communication technology, as well as the establishment of a custom union, monetary union, and common market.

In October 2008, Tripartite leaders agreed to initiate a Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA). The TFTA will include four overarching principles: Duty-Free and Quota-Free Market Access, Incremental Liberalization, Most Favoured Nation Treatment, and National Treatment. 50 | Paths to Fisheries Subsidies Reform: Creating sustainable fisheries through trade and economics

The TFTA (also known as the “Grand FTA”) was launched in 2011. The TFTA will build upon the existing trade agreements already in place in COMESA, EAC, and SADC. The TFTA is intended to set the foundation for a larger African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

The negotiations are in two phases. The first phase addresses tariff liberalization, rules of origin, customs cooperation and customs-related matters, non-tariff barriers, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, and dispute settlement. The second phase focuses on trade in services and other trade-related areas.


The Tripartite Summit of Heads of State and/or Government is the main decision-making body. It meets at least once every two years.

The Tripartite Task Force is a coordinating body directed to develop a roadmap for integration of the RECs and is required to meet at least once every two years.

The Tripartite has no formal institutional status. COMESA, EAC, and SADC collectively make decisions on the implementation of projects, programs, and regulations. Although implementation decisions are done collectively by COMESA, EAC, and SADC, one REC will usually provide the lead in implementation.


There has been no commitment or history by the Tripartite on fisheries subsidies. However, in two of the component RECs (EAC and SADC), fisheries have been identified as areas of interest in addressing food security.

The EAC has identified initiatives to address fisheries governance; fisheries management; monitoring, control and surveillance; fisheries development; fisheries trade and marketing; and fisheries diseases.

The SADC emphasizes the important role of fisheries to the social and economic well-being of the people of the region in its Protocol on Fisheries. The Protocol guides the SADC in its programs that address aquaculture, fisheries management, and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

What could the Tripartite produce/do on fisheries subsidies?

The Tripartite could be a vehicle for stimulating attention to fisheries subsidies, particularly by the component RECs. In turn, it could serve as a forum for greater coordination of policies among the RECs.

As the TFTA is new, it is difficult to determine what the Tripartite is capable of in terms of reforming fisheries subsidies. However, there may be potential to pursue actions on fisheries subsidies or coordination on related fisheries issues. There is the opportunity to pursue fisheries subsidies in the TFTA with a view towards a larger, comprehensive Continental Agreement in the future. As in other trade agreements, the TFTA could potentially control fisheries subsidies though trade rules and disciplines, commitments, and/or other measures.

The TFTA (not the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite) is the entity assessed and evaluated in this project and represented in the summary charts.


c/o TradeMark Southern Africa
1st Floor Building 41, CSIR Campus
Meiring Naude Road
Brummeria, Pretoria, 0001
South Africa
Email: [email protected]

East African Community Headquarters
EAC Close
Off Afrika Mashariki Road
P.O. Box 1096

Tel: +255 27 2162100
Fax: +255 27 2162190

Email: [email protected]

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Centre
Ben Bella Road
P. O. Box 30051

Tel: +260 211 229725/32
Fax: +260 211 225107

Email: [email protected]

The Southern African Development Community House
Plot No. 54385
Central Business District
Private Bag 0095

Tel: +267 395 1863
Fax: +267 397 2848, (267) 318 1070


© Copyright 2015 Oceana