Dec 22, 2016: The East African Community has until March 2017 to ratify the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement to pave the way for EAC goods to enter larger markets like South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

At the Tripartite Trade Negotiation Forum held in Johannesburg from December 9 to 11, the EAC said it would ratify the agreement by the end of February 2017. The ratification will however will be on a transitional basis, as some annexes are yet to be concluded.

The bloc expressed concern that the delays may make it difficult to meet the June 2017 deadline set by the Tripartite Council of Ministers.

So far, 18 countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, have signed the TFTA agreement, but none has ratified it yet.

<>The TFTA brings together 26 members of the EAC, the Common Market for Southern and Eastern Africa (Comesa) and the South Africa Development Community (SADC).

The trade agreement was launched in Egypt in June 2015, establishing a single market for the 26 African countries. It will only come into force once ratification is attained by at least two thirds of the membership.