By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka - Zambia needs to take advantage of the vast market potential in Botswana by exporting its products and leverage the trade imbalance existing between the two neighbours.
Exports from Botswana to Zambia stood at US$30 million in 2017 compared to Zambia’s paltry US$22 million generated during the period under review.
There is a need for Zambia to explore business opportunities in Botswana and maximise on the market potential that can help leverage, as espoused under the intra-trade policy, said Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Masisi urged Zambia to review its uptake of the other regional markets and increase its earnings to ultimately benefit from the intra-regional trade being championed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and at continental level.
Speaking when he graced the 54th Zambia International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Ndola, in Northern Zambia on Thursday, July 28, President Masisi stated that his country values intra-regional trade and competition among neighbours, as it is an enabler of economic growth and prosperity.
During the fair dubbed: “Private Sector, Key to Industrialisation” President Masisi took advantage of the platform to restate the importance of trade between Botswana and Zambia given the potential for the two countries to exponentially increase trade and investment.
Thus, it remains for Zambia to review the imbalance and benefit from what its neighbours, Botswana included, have to offer, given various instruments that are at play.
“Zambia has a lot to offer Botswana in terms of trade, but there is an imbalance because we import more than we export to that country,” he added.
Apart from direct trade, there are also other opportunities to collaborate with Botswana, that country being endowed with various base metals, including copper and nickel, coal, diamond, salt, sand and gravel, semi-precious gemstones, and soda ash, among other products which Zambia can maximise.
Masisi reiterated his country’s commitment to enhancing trade between the two countries, having signed the double taxation avoidance agreement that seeks to ensure that companies doing business are not levied twice for the same transaction and spurred by various regional protocols that seek to enhance increased trade among SADC member states.
“We have also signed the regional instruments, in particular, the SADC Free Trade Protocol and the Tripartite Free Trade Area agreements encompassing the three regional economic communities of SADC, Common Market for East and Southern Africa and the East African Community.
“This is to bolster trade by creating a huge single market of about 700 million people with an estimated gross domestic product of well over US$1.4 trillion for our goods and services.”
The regional instruments were directly in line with the spirit of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), adopted in January 2012 by the 18th African Union Summit held in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa.
In March this year, 44 African countries signed the CFTA, giving birth to the world’s largest free trade area since the World Trade Organisation was formed in 1995.
The CFTA and the tripartite agreements signed by African countries are primed to create space and accelerate trade with and amongst African countries and will ultimately help to strengthen economic, social and cultural linkages among African countries that espouse increased intra-trade and make the continent competitive.
Meanwhile, President Masisi reaffirmed the friendship and commitment by the two countries to co-exist, noting the efforts being made to improve infrastructure and ensure the smooth movement of goods and services and its people when crossing the two borders.
According to Masisi, the US$259 million the construction of the Kazungula bridge as well as the bridge with a rail linking the two countries was well underway and expected to be completed before the end of 2019.
The bridge would ultimately replace the ageing ferry system that has frustrated trade between the two neighbours.
He has since invited the Zambian government and the business community to participate in the Botswana 2018 Global Expo, a premier business exhibition and conference to be held from 30 0ctober to 2 November in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone.
Various Botswana companies took part in the Zambian annual trade and economic showpiece under the auspices of the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre.
The ZITF attracted a total 661 exhibitors, 551 local and 110 foreign, a 17% increase over the previous years.
President Masisi was accompanied by First Lady, Neo Masisi, former President Festus Mogae, and the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Nonofo Molefhi and Member of Parliament Daniel Kwelagobe, among other officials.
President Edgar Lungu noted that the increase in the number of exhibitors from outside the country during the international trade fair every year testify to the strengthened bilateral ties and confidence that Zambia continues to share with its neighbours.
Both Zambia and Botswana have a duty to build on the friendship that the two peoples have continued to share. It is important for the two countries to reflect on the strides that they shared during the independence struggle, Lungu added.
The Zambian trade fair remains the country’s biggest exhibition in the country and seeks to promote trade and investment while underscoring the focal role it plays in promoting cross-border trade.
It attracts participation from all sectors of the economy, including companies beyond Zambia.