Tunisia is set to ratify the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Treaty during the next COMESA Summit in October 2017 according a statement from the COMESA secretariat. The signature will herald the admission of Tunisia to the regional economic community as its 20th Member State.
COMESA is a regional economic community established in 1994. It brings together 19 African Member States with a population of 490 million people into a cooperative framework for sustainable economic growth and prosperity through regional integration.
Once Tunisia joins COMESA, it will become the 20th nation in the trade block.
Tunisian Prime Minister and Head of Government His Excellency Yousef Achahed told a visiting COMESA delegation that his country was ready to conclude the negotiations early in readiness for the accession to the COMESA Treaty.
The COMESA delegation led by the Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya is in Tunisia this week to discuss with the government the steps towards joining the largest regional bloc in Africa.
The mission is in fulfillment of the decision of the 19th COMESA Heads of State Summit held in Madagascar in October 2016 that mandated the Bureau of the Council of Ministers to enter into negotiations with the Republic of Tunisia on the terms and conditions of accession to the COMESA Treaty.
The bilateral talks focused on the activities to be undertaken by Tunisia as part of the preparations to accede to the COMESA Treaty. The Secretary General briefed the Prime Minister on COMESA and explained that the membership of Tunisia will be a single undertaking; "What this means is that it will require Tunisia to simultaneously join COMESA financial, technical, semi-autonomous and autonomous institutions," the SG told the Prime Minister.
COMESA has nine institutions, two specialized agencies and a judicial arm all located in different member States.
As part of the preparations for launching the negotiations between the Bureau of Council and Tunisia, the COMESA delegation held separate discussions with the Minister of Trade and Industry HE Zeid Ladhari and with the Minister of Development Investment and International Cooperation HE Mohamed Fadhel Abdelkefi.
The two Ministers reiterated the readiness and commitment of Tunisia to contribute to the realization of the objectives of COMESA, once the country is admitted.
The COMESA delegation which includes the Director of Trade and Customs Dr Francis Mangeni and Director of Legal Affairs Brian Chigawa will be meeting with other Ministers and private sector representatives in the coming days.
Tunisia first applied for observer status in COMESA in 2005 but the matter was not concluded. In February, 2016 the country formally wrote to the Secretary General making inquiries on joining COMESA. This set in motion the current process towards its admission. Once successfully concluded, Tunisia will become the 20 member of COMESA.
Article 4 of the Treaty provides that the COMESA Authority may admit a country which is an immediate neighbour of a Member States upon fulfilling conditions set forth including acceptance of the COMESA aims and objectives, compliance with the general undertakings and fundamental principles and wishing to co-operate with COMESA.
According to the procedure, the application are communicated to the Member States, and then tabled before the Council of Ministers to make appropriate recommendation for the attention of the Authority of the COMESA Heads of State and Governments.
A new member, upon admission, is bound by the provisions of the Treaty and shall within six month thereafter deposit the instruments of acceptance and accession with the Secretary General.