Fungi Kwaramba-Political Editor
ZIMBABWE is poised to reap huge benefits from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and should spread its wings beyond the SADC region to reach a market of more than a billion people on the continent.
This emerged after a meeting between President Mnangagwa and AfCFTA secretary-general Mr Wamakele Mene at State House yesterday.
“We came to brief the President on the work of the African Continental Free Trade Area; what we have been doing to establish the secretariat. More importantly, we discussed how Zimbabwe can benefit from export opportunities under the AfCFTA market which is a market of 1,3 billion people. I believe Zimbabwe is well-positioned to benefit from this market and to increase competitiveness outside the SADC region,” said Mr Mene.
A report by the World Bank shows that landlocked Zimbabwe along with Côte d’Ivoire, where trade costs are among the highest on the continent, would benefit the most from AfCFTA, with a projected income of 14 percent.
Although the AfCFTA was supposed to come into effect last year, it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and only began in January this year. The trade pact is the world’s largest free trade area.
AfCFTA aims to create a single market for goods and services to deepen the economic integration of Africa with an envisaged combined gross domestic product (GDP) of around US$3,4 trillion.
On Wednesday, while commissioning Varun Beverages Zimbabwe Additional Plant, Bottled Water, and Cordial Production Line, President Mnangagwa said the private sector, which is key to the national aspirations of becoming an upper middle economy by 2030 through the implementation of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), should take advantage of AfCFTA.
“Let me take this opportunity to challenge the private sector to be more innovative and continue to adopt and adapt new technologies and marketing strategies to improve business competitiveness. All sectors of the economy must equally take advantage of Zimbabwe’s existing trade arrangements within Africa and beyond.
“The operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with a market of more than 1,2 billion people must be fully utilised and exploited,” he said.
Among other things, the agreement seeks to reduce all trade costs and enable Africa to integrate further into global supply chains. It will eliminate 90 percent of tariffs, focus on outstanding non-tariff barriers and create a single market with free movement of goods and services.
Cutting red tape and simplifying customs procedures will bring significant income gains. Beyond trade, the pact also addresses the movement of persons and labour, competition, investment, and intellectual property.