Windhoek - The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which will create a single market of 1,2 billion with a GDP of over US$1,4 trillion, could be the game changer for the region’s drive to spur economic development and enhance livelihoods.
Experts have long said the single continental market will stimulate productivity and boost trade within the continent.
This week, Namibia’s Minister of Trade and Industrialisation Lucia Ipumbu told global delegates to the annual Bank of Namibia Symposium in Windhoek that for the first time ever, African countries had the opportunity to solidify trade between each other.
The symposium was themed “Positioning Namibia to reap the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area”.
Minister Ipumbu said the AfCFTA had potential to stimulate intra-Africa trade by 52 percent through the removal of tariffs.
“The agreement is that this agreement will bring in opportunities for Africa’s opportunities in value addition and supply of services which are key in creating employment opportunities. The agreement and negotiations of the AFTA has an opportunity of opening even more doors for the African continent and will also allow most African countries to close any limitations or challenges that have been faced in the past in improving intra Africa trade,” she said
Minister Ipumbu said the next stage was for the AfCFTA to fine tune the rules of engagement in terms of tariff relaxation. The continental trade pact was scheduled to become operational in in mid-202 but that has moved to January 2021 because of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Namibia’s Trade Minister said while the AfCFTA was a game changer in terms of speeding up the development of value chains, it would take more than the agreement alone to change the face of Africa’s economy.
She called for African countries to push for the operationalisation of the AfCFTA in a manner that created and saved jobs and put money in people’s pockets.
Minister Ipumbu said Namibia was finalising its implementation plan to harmonise AfCFTA protocols with local procedures and to maximise the benefit of being part of the pact.
Bank of Namibia Governor Johannes !Gawaxab said the country stood to benefit immensely from the agreement through greater access to markets across the continent.
But Mr !Gawaxab also pointed out that the AfCFTA would also create serious competition for Namibian producers and service providers. As such, he said, Namibian businesses had to up their game in terms of production processes, skills and knowledge.
“The AfCFTA presents several opportunities for the Namibian economy as well as pushes the continental and regional agenda closer to reality for the African continent. The AfCFTA is the largest free trade partnership since the World War and puts together more than a billion people and capitalisation of more than a trillion US dollars hence giving chance to transforming the Namibian and African economy,” he said.
The central bank chief said Namibia needed to strategically position itself to benefit from the trade agreement.