The Challenge of Overlapping Regional Economic Communities in Africa: Lessons for the Continental Free Trade Area from the Failures of the Tripartite Free Trade Area

  • Melaku Geboye DestaEmail author
  • Guillaume Gérout
Part of the Ethiopian Yearbook of International Law book series (EtYIL, volume 2017)


The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) was launched with several objectives, an important one being to address the challenge of too many regional economic communities (RECs) with too many overlapping memberships in the eastern half of the continent. This article attempts to describe the genesis of the problem in the continent since the Abuja Treaty of 1991, articulates how the inability to address the relationship between the TFTA and its preexisting RECs derailed the TFTA project, and makes detailed recommendations on how to avoid the same mistakes in the CFTA negotiations. The key message of this article is very simple: TFTA’s fate was sealed when the negotiators abandoned the original objective of forming a customs union by merging the constituent RECs into one. To succeed, the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will need to avoid that mistake, aim to become a continental customs union and eventually a common market, and ensure the progressive merger of all RECs into one through a detailed program of integration over a realistic implementation period.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leicester De Montfort School of Law, Faculty of Business and LawDe Montfort UniversityLeicesterUK
  2. 2.United Nations Economic Commission for AfricaAddis AbabaEthiopia
  3. 3.African Trade Policy Centre, United Nations Economic Commission for AfricaAddis AbabaEthiopia

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