The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), a long-time goal of African countries to unite their economies, was launched on June 10 at a summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The TFTA will unite the twenty-six countries that comprise three of Africa's regional economic communities: the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). A map showing the geographic coverage of the TFTA is available here.
The TFTA will facilitate trade among these communities, which represent a total of 632 million people and a gross domestic product of $1.3 trillion in 2014—nearly 60 percent of both Africa's population and Africa's total production.
The Sharm El Sheikh declaration separates the negotiating process into two phases. The first phase of tariff and goods-related negotiations is all but complete, but the second phase (covering services, intellectual property, and other issues) has not yet begun. The countries are aiming for a 2017 implementation date. In addition to finalizing the TFTA, analysts note that African economies need to improve infrastructure and political capacity to more fully integrate and support continent-wide economic development.