Windhoek – The Namibian Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, Tjekero Tweya, has said trade ministers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region are now heavily engaged in discussions aimed at improving intra-regional trade.
SADC countries are failing to trade among themselves due to an ineffective manufacturing industry. As a result, the share of manufacturing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the SADC region has not been able to industrialise, declining from 17.6% in 1990 to 13% in 2013. Despite also preaching about a SADC Free-Trade Area, intra-SADC trade remains low ‑ recording at 17% of the total SADC trade.
This is attributed to the fact that the region has been struggling with productive capacity. This, in turn has seen the region parting with its raw minerals, and buying them back as finished products for a high fee from international markets.
Speaking to The Southern Times this week, Tweya said ministers responsible for trade in the region should not always wait for the SADC Summit to talk about trade.
After the two-day SADC Council of Ministers’ Meeting concluded on Tuesday evening, Tweya could still be seen late that evening at the Safari Court Hotel, the venue for this year’s Summit, talking to many trade ministers.
Approached for comment, Tweya said: “After the Council of Ministers Meeting ended I am still around here having bilateral talks with my counterparts. I cannot tell you specifically what I am discussing with them, but what I can tell you is that part of it is intra-trade. We cannot always wait for the summit. We must make things happen. We must start it ourselves to improve intra-trade,” he said.
He said the ministers of trade should not be confined to what is being discussed during the Summit period and that there is a need to identify goods that the region can trade among itself.
“We need to identify what can be traded between, for example, Namibia and Botswana or Namibia and Swaziland or between Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Our different institutions need to exchange experiences, whether it is the regulatory bodies or the institutions responsible for standardising or certifying these products,” he said.
Tweya added that there is a need to share in order to bring confidence and have physical interactions between the countries. He said this is because technically, the SADC region is the cornerstone for the continental free trade area.
The minister also let slip that the region will not open up everything for the continental free trade area.
“We will not open up everything from the word go, but only the five main ones whereas others will be left for intra-trade,” he said without specifically stating which ones.
He said issues like manufacturing of hair (weaves), small commodities such as manufacturing of bags, water bottles, etc, should be left for the region’s manufacturing sector.
“We are dealing with small and medium enterprises and these do not have the capacity to produce for the whole continent and resources. They also don’t have the bulk infrastructure. You see at cross-borders you have people trading in batches, it is their offices, it is their stores. We must find a way to help them,” he said before Zimbabwe’s Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development Minister, Michael Bimha ushered him away, “As you can see my next appointment has arrived,” Tweya said with a smile.