Zimbabwe better placed to benefit from AfCFTA: VP Mohadi

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

Zimbabwe better placed to benefit from AfCFTA: VP Mohadi 
Vice President Kembo Mohadi, ZITF board chair Busisa Moyo (left), Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Judith Ncube, Foreign Affairs Minister Frederick Shava (centre) and Minister of Industry and Commerce Mangaliso Ndlovu (right)attend the Connect Africa Symposium in Bulawayo yesterday.

Nqobile Tshili-Bulawayo Bureau

ZIMBABWEAN entrepreneurs must take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which offers huge opportunities to grow intra-trade between African countries and connects them to new markets, Vice President Kembo Mohadi said yesterday.

He challenged governments on the continent to invest in infrastructure development to increase the ease of doing business.

The African Union adopted the AfCFTA as a measure to promote trade within African countries and Zimbabwe is among the destinations tipped to reap big dividends. 

Delivering the keynote address at the Africa Connect Symposium held on the sidelines of the 64th Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo, Vice President Mohadi said the AfCFTA presents more opportunities for manufacturers in Africa.

Running under the theme: “Harnessing Innovation for Africa’s Prosperity”, the conference’s aim is to trigger debate on opportunities and challenges that exist within the continent.

African countries, on average, do just a quarter of their trade within the continent, with nations on the continent exporting raw materials to other continents then following up to buy finished goods.

VP Mohadi said Africa’s failure to produce finished value-added products and the export of raw materials remains a big challenge.

“Zimbabwe has actively pursued regional and international trade agreements to open new avenues for our innovators and entrepreneurs. Our participation in AfCFTA, which offers huge opportunities to grow intra-trade between African countries, has given access to a market for Zimbabwean entrepreneurs,” he said. 

“Zimbabwe is better placed to benefit from AfCFTA, and has identified key priority products to produce, which include cotton, leather, cane sugar and raw hides, among others.”

VP Mohadi said embracing innovation has seen Zimbabwe addressing some of its national challenges for the benefit of its citizens, with universities leading the way through innovations that provide solutions to national challenges.

The telecommunications sector, for instance, has changed the communication trajectory while investment in renewable energy is transforming remote communities.

“The mobile telecommunication industry has revolutionised communication, providing mobile connectivity and economic opportunities. Zimbabwe’s mobile phone penetration has now reached approximately 97,5 percent,” said VP Mohadi.

“Solar companies are bringing in affordable energy solutions to rural communities. Our farmers and consumers are being connected and supported, thereby improving food accessibility. 

“These Zimbabwean ventures exemplify resilience, resourcefulness and a commitment to economic growth and development.”

He said a united Africa could generate a combined Gross Domestic Product exceeding US$2,5 trillion and use it as a bargaining point in attracting foreign investment.

The Vice President called for harmonisation of trade policies, streamlining regulations and investing in critical infrastructure as essential steps.

He said African countries should promote collaboration and innovation within the continent as part of the Pan-African goal and grow economies.

“Despite vast natural resources, Africa’s intra-regional trade is faced with huge challenges. A crumbling infrastructure is characterised by poor roads and limited air and maritime connections,” said VP Mohadi. 

“More often than not, poor infrastructure has presented logistical nightmares for our people. For instance, some unscrupulous business people have taken advantage of the poor road network to overcharge travellers and stifle the movement of goods.”

Worsening the situation were the complex regulations and bureaucratic red-tape that discouraged investments.

VP Mohadi said there was a need to embrace modern technologies and 21st century skills for the continent not to lag behind in the fast developing world.

“In this regard, the Government of Zimbabwe has a dedicated Ministry of Skills Audit and Development. This ministry is tasked with the role to identify skills gaps in different sectors of the economy and recommend interventions deemed appropriate,” said VP Mohadi.

There was a need to empower women and the youth, as they played an important role in the development of African economies. As Zimbabwe readied to assume the SADC chairmanship in August, this would be critical in advancing regional trade for the development of the region.

“Recognising the efforts of this 16-member economic and political grouping is crucial. SADC’s objective is to promote sustainable economic growth, socio-economic development, and poverty alleviation aligns with the spirit of entrepreneurship,” said VP Mohadi.

“We are delighted as a country that we will host the SADC Industrialisation Week from July 31 to August 2, 2024. We therefore, look forward to delving deeper into this discussion during the Industrialisation Week.”

While African countries needed to increase trade among themselves, the continent still welcomed investment from the broader world.

VP Mohadi said it was encouraging that despite the challenges, African countries had shown resilience and an entrepreneurial spirit to address prevailing challenges. 

The conference was part of the key platforms of this year’s ZITF and was attended by diverse local and foreign participants.