Seychelles joined the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in September 1997 when it acceded to the COMESA Treaty. The COMESA Treaty was subsequently ratified in March 1998. With its 19 Member States, COMESA has a population of over 389 million, an annual import bill of around US billion, and an export bill of US billion. Member states include: Burundi, Comoros, D.R. Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Libya, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The current COMESA Secretary-General is Mr. Sindiso NGWENYA.
COMESA’s strategies and objectives are outlined within the COMESA Medium Term Strategic Plan 2011 – 2015, through the following six priority areas: Removing Barriers to Factor Mobility, Building Productive Capacity for Global Competitiveness, Addressing Supply-Side Constraints Related to Infrastructure, Peace and Security, Cross Cutting Issues and Institutional strengthening. To achieve its objectives, COMESA has initiated and implemented a number of programmes, in which Seychelles is actively participating in.
COMESA is also assisting Seychelles in combating piracy through the MASE Programme.
For 25 years since 1975, the trade, development and co-operation relationship between the European Union (EU) and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries was governed by the Lomé Conventions (Lomé I, II, III and IV). At the end of the Lomé IV, ACP countries and the EU agreed to a new cooperation framework agreement, the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement or the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) signed on 23rd June 2000. The conclusion of the CPA involves an agreement under its Economic and Trade Cooperation component for the two parties to negotiate a new trading arrangement compatible with the relevant rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) by 31st December 2007. This new trading arrangement was termed the – Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Since the negotiations were progressing at a slow pace, an interim arrangement was proposed to prevent a disruption in the trade of ACP non-LDCs as of 1st January 2008, and to extend the time for the negotiation of the EPA.
Seychelles signed the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) with the EU on 29th August 2009 in Mauritius, along with three other countries Mauritius, Madagascar and Zimbabwe. Negotiations are currently ongoing on the full and comprehensive EPA.
The IEPA entails that Seychelles will eliminate tariffs on 97.52% of its total imports from the EU (in value terms) over a period of 10 years starting in 2013. In return, exports originating from Seychelles will be granted duty free access to the EU market. The IEPA also guarantees areas of cooperation where development can be supported. These are in: Fisheries, Agriculture, Trade Promotion, Infrastructure and Private Sector Development.
Seychelles rejoined the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) in November, after withdrawing in 2003. The IOR-ARC is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them. It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.
The objective of the IOR-ARC is to:
a) Promote the sustained growth and balanced development of the region and of the Member States, and to create common ground for regional economic co-operation;
(b) Focus on areas of economic co-operation, relating to trade facilitation and liberalization, promotion of foreign investment, scientific and technological exchanges, tourism, movement of natural persons and service providers on a non-discriminatory basis; and the development of infrastructure and human resources inter-alia poverty alleviation, promotion of maritime transport and related matters, cooperation in the fields of fisheries trade, research and management, aquaculture, education and training, energy, IT, health, protection of the environment, agriculture, disaster management.
(c) Explore all possibilities and avenues for trade liberalization, to remove impediments to, and lower barriers towards, freer and enhanced flow of goods, services, investment, and technology within the region.
(d) Encourage close interaction of trade and industry, academic institutions, scholars and the peoples of the Member States without any discrimination among Member States and without prejudice to obligations under other regional economic and trade co-operation arrangements;
(e) Strengthen co-operation and dialogue among Member States in international forum on global economic issues, and where desirable to develop shared strategies and take common positions in the international forum on issues of mutual interest
(f) Promote co-operation in development of human resources, particularly through closer linkages among training institutions, universities and other specialized institutions of the Member States.
The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) is an intergovernmental organisation which groups the Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comores and France/Reunion Island. It has as its main objective to promote sustainable development of its member states, which share a similar history, and culture, as well as common interests such as the changing environment. Through its regional cooperation projects, IOC forges strong bonds of closeness and solidarity among its member states. Their representatives, experts and techinicians have come to better know and appreciate working together, exchanging info and sharing experiences.
It was the Port-Louis conference, held from the 18th to the 21st January 1982, which set the fundamental principal of a cooperation agreement, signed on the 10th January 1984, in Victoria, Seychelles. The initially signatory member states of the Victoria Agreement, establishing the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) were Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles. Comoros and France/Reunion Island joined the organization two years later, on the 10th January 1986.
The IOC defines its cooperation in the following areas:
Since its creation, the IOC has developed actions and initiated projects in a number of areas such as the environment, tourism, intra regional trade, fisheries, telecommunications, culture, climate change, health and gender issues. Financing for these projects has been supported by the EU, through the European Development Fund (EDF) as well as from other donor agencies, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the World Bank, the African Development Bank (ADB) and the ‘Agence Française de Développement (AFD)’.
The IOC is the sole organisation with a specific island configuration. As such, the organization has a leading role in the promotion of specific small island stakes. As an illustrating fact, the IOC is chair of the AIMS group – Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Southern Sea of China. The IOC has also recently been accorded observer status of the African Union.
The Seychelles handed over the Presidency of the COI to Comores, at the 28th Council of Ministers, held in the 17th January 2013. On the occasion, the IOC General Secretary, Mr. Jean-Claude l’Estrac, congratulated the dynamic and efficient presidency of the IOC by the Seychelles, through Minister Jean-Paul Adam. Under the Seychelles presidency, the IOC has made remarkable achievements such as, the setting up of the decentralized IOC piracy cell, in Seychelles, the many regional development programs such as the ‘Vanilla Islands’ project and its active participation in the Madagascar Political crisis roadmap.
Seychelles joined the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in September 1997 but withdrew in June 2003 due to financial and human resource constraints. On 17th August 2008 Seychelles re-joined SADC. The SADC headquarters is based in Gaborone, Botswana and Dr. Tomaz Augusto Salomao is the present Executive Secretary of the SADC Secretariat.
There are currently 15 member states in SADC: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar (suspended), Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The SADC vision is that of a common future, a future within a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice and peace and security for the peoples of Southern Africa. This shared vision is anchored on the common values and principles and the historical and cultural affinities that exist between the peoples of Southern Africa.
SADC has initiated and implemented a number of programmes, in which Seychelles is actively participating in:
As well as supporting Seychelles in combating piracy through the MASE Programme, SADC is actively involved in the mediation process in Madagascar and the organization drafted a Roadmap in restoring political stability to Madagascar.
The tripartite is composed of the three regional blocks COMESA, EAC and SADC which aims to create a free trade area with the aim of customs and economic liberalisation. It is envisaged that the twenty-six (26) countries will engage in negotiations for the establishment of a Tripartite FTA, recognising that substantial progress on trade liberalisation has been achieved within their three RECs. The establishment of the Tripartite FTA will build upon and consolidate the RECs acquis. The first phase will cover negotiations on market access and in a parallel and separate track the movement of business persons across the region. The second phase will cover negotiations on trade in services, intellectual property rights, competition policy, and trade development and competitiveness. Seychelles is actively engaged in the trading block, and ensures full participation in meetings and discussions.