Lusaka – The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can transform the continent’s economy and change people’s lives, Zambian President Edgar Lungu has said.
Speaking in Lusaka Wednesday when he met AfCFTA Secretary-General Mr Wamkele Mene, President Lungu said Zambia was as a firm believer in the importance of greater intra-Africa trade as a catalyst for sustainable development.
“If you don’t have economic clout, no one will listen to you, hence Zambia’s subscribing to the African Continental Free Trade Area,” President Lungu added.
The Zambian leader said the AfCFTA was an actualisation of the vision of continental unity as espoused by the generation that led Africa’s liberation struggles as it logically followed up political independence with economic emancipation.
President Lungu said he was confident that Mr Mene would continue to lead the AfCFTA to greater heights, following its operationalisation on January 1, 2021, particularly as regards closing the industrialisation deficit.
Mr Mene noted that SMEs were a key component of Africa’s development, and the sector needed support, especially within the context of empowerment of women and young people.
“We have been able to secure trade funds of about US$1.5 billion for SMEs to expand their businesses. We are collaborating with the Unite Nations Development Plan to make sure this support is accessible to all segments of society,” he said.
“For countries facing fiscal challenges and are not able to support their small businesses, we are able to access funding from the Export and Import Bank under the trade fund facility to assist them. We’ll not leave any country behind.”
The AfCFTA Agreement seeks to galvanise a market of over one billion people and a GDP topping US$1.3 trillion in GDP. It aims to eliminate 90 percent of tariffs, focus on outstanding non-tariff barriers and create a single market with free movement of goods and services.To date, 35 of the African Union’s 55 member States have ratified the agreement. Fifty-four AU member states have signed the AfCFTA Agreement, with Eritrea the only holdout.