Zimbabwe’s private sector says it is ready and fully seized with matters to do with the historic African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that is set to create one of the world's largest single markets, accounting for over $4 trillion in spending and investment across the continent.
This was said by the Chief Executive Officer of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Christopher Mugaga, in opening remarks to a workshop organized by the government of Zimbabwe in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to sensitise the country’s private sector on the AfCFTA.
“We are the for the AfCFTA. As you know Zimbabwe’s private sector pushed for ratification of the agreement. It is therefore important for us to remain seized with ensuring that our government continues to address issues to improve the ease of doing business in the country. This will ensure that we reap the benefits that will come with the AfCFTA,” he said.
Mr. Mugaga said value addition of Africa's resources will help the continent in its quest for economic transformation, which in turn will change the lives of its citizens for the better. The value addition, he said, coupled with increased intra-African trade and a continent speaking with one voice, will no doubt see Africa scaling to dizzy heights in terms of sustainable development.
He lauded Africa’s increasing ability to speak with one voice on global issues, as seen with the AfCFTA, saying this is crucial if the continent is to continue transforming and become a major player on the global arena.
“We cannot afford to continue speaking with many voices as a continent. It weakens us on the negotiating table that is why we continue to emphasize the importance of us speaking with one voice,” Mr. Mugaga said, adding the benefits of intra-African trade could not be overemphasized.
For his part, Zimbabwe’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ambassador James Manzou said organizing the private sector for more effective engagement with the government and other key players on trade policymaking and implementation was crucial.
“In line with the Transitional Stabilization Programme and Vision 2030, government is undertaking various economic reforms to address supply side constraints and enhance firm level competitiveness to take advantage of opportunities presented by the AfCFTA among other trade agreements,” he said.
The Zimbabwe government recently established a Trade Remedies Unit within its Competition and Tariff Commission to deal with unfair trade practices in preparation for the opening up under the AfCFTA.
“Let me stress that government is committed to improving the ease of doing business in the country so that the private sector can utilize the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA and make the AfCFTA a reality,” Ambassador Manzou said.
He added Zimbabwe was negotiating for a longer liberalisation period of 15 years for its 90 percent tariff offer under the AfCFTA by which time they envisage better performance from the country’s industry and an improvement on their macroeconomic environment.
The AfCFTA is expected to give entrepreneurs across the continent access to a much larger market hence the sensitization workshop organized by the government of Zimbabwe, the AUC and the ECA.
Prospects for larger markets and supporting infrastructure will spur industrial development; create jobs and also have the added advantage of diversifying African economies which are currently largely dependent on raw materials.
The associated technological development, said Ambassador Manzou, will lead to the creation of new industries not only in Zimbabwe but the continent as a whole.
“Zimbabwe should take advantage of this free trade area as we embark on our industrialization strategy for more diversification in production of manufactured goods with a bigger market for both goods and services. Development of a strategy is intended for us to think outside the box on how the agreement can best deliver in our different industries,” he said.
The workshop was attended by representatives from Zimbabwe’s private sector; government departments; United Nations agencies and other key stakeholders.