Windhoek – The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) is laying the foundation for implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with consultations on conformity measures underway.
SACU Executive Secretary Ms Paulina Elago said the AfCFTA was a game-changer for the continent’s development as envisioned by the African Union’s Agenda 2063 roadmap.
Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, South Africa and Namibia constitute the customs union, the oldest such organisation in the world having been established 104 years ago.
In a webinar organised in partnership with the Trade Law Centre, Ms Elago said, “We recognise that individual (SACU) member states have commenced their awareness campaigns at the national level… The AfCFTA will also provide an opportunity for the continent to enhance its productive capacity and to build robust regional value chains to effectively supply the African market, comprising 55 countries with estimated 1.3 billion consumers and a combined GDP of around US$3.4 trillion. It further creates an opportunity to modernise and streamline customs processes, procedures and requirements for import and export in the continent.”
She also said: “For SACU, the importance attached to the AfCFTA cannot be over emphasised. The AfCFTA will enable the SACU region and the Continent at large to deepen integration, a move that is in line with SACU’s own objectives. For this reason, SACU has placed the implementation of the AfCFTA among its top priorities.”
Ms Elago said SACU had tabled an initial tariff offer comprising around 5,988 tariff lines, representing 77 percent of the bloc’s tariff book.
“This tariff schedule has been published and is already operationalised in all SACU member states, except Botswana whose ratification process for the AfCFTA is at an advanced stage. Currently SACU is working intensely on the remaining work to finalise its tariff offer in accordance with the agreed modalities. This includes designation of sensitive products and exclusion list,” she said.
Ms Elago said it was incumbent upon the private sector to capitalise on opportunities to grow their businesses through regional value chains and cross border trade.
“Without the participation of the business sector, all these efforts will be meaningless. In this regard, the SACU Council of Ministers has agreed to prioritise industrialisation through the development of regional value chains, export and investment promotion.
“To that end, the region is currently undertaking technical work to outline a systematic approach and practical steps to scale up the region’s industrial base and to strategically positioning itself to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA.”
Ms Elago also said SACU’s Customs Modernisation Programme had laid the groundwork for enhanced efficiency in customs operations.
“SACU member states customs IT management systems are now linked to automatically exchange information. This is a great milestone and a stepping stone towards enhancing efficiencies. We will receive a full presentation later on the SACU Customs Modernisation Programme.
“In addition, SACU member states are participating in the online non-tariff barriers (NTBs) mechanism for speedy reporting and resolution of NTBs which the AfCFTA has been put in place,” she said.