Kenyan President William Ruto has taken up an ambitious agenda to position Kenya at the heart of the Tripartite Free Trade Area, a future trade bloc that spans the entire length of Africa from Cape Town to Cairo. The Tripartite Free Trade Area is a proposed treaty among three regional economic communities–the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)–which would establish a free trade area among their collective 26 member states.
Ruto has wasted no time in advocating for Kenya to take a lead role in the development of this new trade zone. He has argued that Kenya should use its geographical location, infrastructure, and political stability to attract investment and commerce from other parts of the continent. Speaking at a recent meeting of the EAC heads of state in Arusha, Tanzania, Ruto said, “Kenya is strategically placed at the crossroads of the Tripartite Free Trade Area. We stand to benefit greatly from closer economic ties with our neighbors, and we can serve as a gateway to the wider African market.”
The Tripartite Free Trade Area, if implemented, would be the largest trade bloc in the world by number of member countries. It would cover a population of over 800 million people and a combined GDP of more than $1.3 trillion. For Kenya, the potential benefits of closer integration with other African economies are significant. The country has a robust and diversified economy, with the tourism, agriculture, and technology sectors being among its most dynamic. However, Kenya’s economic growth has been uneven in recent years, with high levels of inequality and unemployment persisting.
To realize his vision of Kenya at the heart of the Tripartite Free Trade Area, Ruto has laid out an ambitious agenda centered on infrastructure development, trade liberalization, and regional cooperation. He has called for increased investment in transport and energy infrastructure to improve connectivity between Kenyan cities and countries in the wider African market. He has also pushed for the elimination of trade barriers and the harmonization of regulations among Tripartite member states. In addition, Ruto has emphasized the need for greater cooperation among regional bodies like the EAC, COMESA, and SADC to ensure that the Tripartite Free Trade Area is implemented smoothly and effectively.
Some experts have expressed skepticism about the feasibility of the Tripartite Free Trade Area, given the many political, economic, and logistical challenges involved in creating a seamless market across such a vast and diverse region. However, Ruto remains optimistic that Kenya can play a leading role in shaping the future of African trade. “We have the resources, the talent, and the vision to make this happen,” he said. “Let us work together to turn this dream into a reality.”