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President Mugabe arrived here yesterday for the launch of Africa’s largest economic bloc, the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) summit. He was received by Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Mr Hossam Jamal, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha and Zimbabwe embassy officials.

The President was invited in his capacity as Southern African Development Community (sadc) chair.

Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko is the Acting President.

The TFTA will be launched at the 3rd Summit of the Tripartite Heads of State and Government tomorrow.

The tripartite consists of 26 States that are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the East African Community and sadc.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said President Mugabe had been invited as sadc chairperson.

Minister Mike Bimha, who flew to Egypt on Saturday for pre-launch meetings, said the Tripartite chair was rotational.

“sadc is the current chair of the tripartite arrangement,” he said. “So, the event is a major milestone in that not only does it create the largest economic bloc in Africa, but it comes at a time that sadc has adopted its industrialisation strategy. To top it all, the launch comes at a time President Mugabe is the current African Union chairman.”

sadc has been chair of the TFTA since its launch in 2011 and will be handing over the chairmanship to Comesa at the close of the summit.

sadc recently adopted a strategy and roadmap on industrialisation and the incorporation of the pillars on industry and infrastructure are important and strategic components for the success of the tripartite agenda.

The TFTA launch will be a historical event. The envisaged benefits from the TFTA once the member States ratify it through their respective national legislative assemblies include the growth in intra-regional trade.

The 26-member States represent over 50 percent of the continent’s gross domestic product and a population of 625 million.

Minister Bimha, in a recent interview, said once the TFTA was operational, it would become a means for enhancing economic inter-linkages and enable business to unlock regional potentials, scale up productive capacities and competitiveness.

In comesa alone, such potential is estimated to be worth over $97 billion.

The reduction or elimination of tariffs will reduce transaction costs across the continent and stimulate economic activity across regions and reduce poverty through employment creation and increased trade.

President Mugabe was seen off at the Harare International Airport by Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mphoko, Minister of Defence Dr Sydney Sekeramayi and Minister of Welfare Services for the War Veterans, War Collaborators, Former Political Detainees and Restrictees, Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa.

Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda, Minister of State for Harare Provincial Affairs Cde Mirriam Chikukwa and service chiefs were also at the airport.

Source : The Herald

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