Lusaka, September 27, 2019
In March 2018, the African Union Commission (AUC) launched the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) whose objective is to accelerate regional economic, political and social integration through the establishment of a free trade area aimed at substantially removing all restrictions to trade and investment on the African continent. Zambia signed the AfCFTA agreement on 10th February 2019 and is expected to deposit its instruments of ratification before the end of 2019. Ratification is the international act whereby sovereign states establish on the international plane their consent to be bound by an international agreement.
With start of trading scheduled for July 2020, Zambia’s preparations for the CFTA are well underway. On 25 and 26 September the Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry (MCTI) in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), the Economic Commission for Africa’s Office for Southern Africa (ECA-SA) and African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) held a validation workshop for Zambia’s Strategy for the Implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement in Lusaka. The overall objectives of the two-day workshop were to review the draft national AfCFTA strategy and implementation plan in terms of the content, the objectives, proposed actions and the implementation framework to address any gaps. It also sought to correct any misrepresentations and align any existing inconsistencies and thereby provide recommendations to improve the national strategy and implementation framework.
The development of a national implementation strategy is important in harnessing the full potential of the AfCFTA. It is cardinal for CFTA members to craft a strategy that is in accordance with each specific country’s priority area under the continental free trade pact. According to Zambia’s implementation strategy, sectors identified as priority sectors for investment promotion include: manufacturing, construction, agriculture, tourism, education, energy, ICT and health. The sectors identified are key intermediate and critical sectors that have the potential to contribute to the realisation of trade diversification and job creation. The choice of the priority sectors was informed by the recent trends in global trade and focus on trade in services as a new frontier for sustainable development and advances in technology underpinned the projection of these sectors.
In addition to this, however, there is a need to also take a look at the sectors of our economy that may be negatively affected by the CFTA. There will be certain industries that may not be able to compete with the imports from our neighbours and it is important that we begin to thoughtfully consider how best we will be able to mitigate some of these negative impacts. This may include needing to be forward-thinking in terms of how we may need to held re-skill some of those who may lose jobs. Further to this, however, the CFTA may need to create opportunities for the establishment of industries that do not already in Zambia. Our strategy therefore also needs to also outline how best position Zambia to be able to take advantage of some of these opportunities.
Various stakeholders at the implementation strategy validation meeting expressed the need to expand the country’s manufacturing base and maintain sustained engagement of the private sector as they are key actors in the trade of goods and services. Further to this, however, there is a need to ensure that there is increased public awareness of the AfCFTA and the impact that it will have on ordinary citizens. For the CFTA to succeed it will be imperative to ensure that it has the buy-in of the public.
The author is Ishmael Zulu, Programme Officer at CUTS.
For further information please contact: The Centre Coordinator, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), House No 32, Plot 406dtrrf, Kudu Road, Kabulonga, Lusaka. Email: email@example.com or phone: 097 8055 293.
The Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International, Lusaka in an NGO that was established in 2000 to function as a center for action (policy) research, advocacy and networking on issues of trade and development, competition policy, investment regulation and consumer protection. The mission of the center is to function as a resource, co-ordination, as well as networking center, to promote South-South cooperation on trade and development by involving state and non-state actors (NSAs). CUTS implements four different strategies in its work: Research, Policy Advocacy, Capacity-building and Networking