The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), ratified by the African Union, came into force earlier this year presenting an opportunity for African countries to create a one Africa market, new trade opportunities and new supply chains.
The agreement presents a new era in African economics and is meant to enhance competitiveness, job opportunities, investments, industrialization and will remove trade barriers that exist within the continent.
Speaking at the just-ended 4-day SADC Youth Forum running from 10-13 August, hosted by Malawi this year, Dr Nkosana Moyo said the AfCTA comes with its risks that may impede the achievement of the intended goals. If not implemented well the trade agreement can further deepen the inequalities that exist amongst member states.
“The bigger countries should avoid the temptation to think that this is an opportunity for them to just sell and not buy anything from other countries. They should facilitate the ability of other African countries to exchange in business and understand that Africa has the capacity to sell across the continent.”
“The concept is fine, but the implementation is where the challenges are going to come from,” Moyo said.
Weighing in on the issue, economist, Kipson Gundani also shared the same sentiment with Dr Moyo that African countries must safeguard and regulate the rules of origin if the One Africa market is to be implemented effectively.
“There is a real risk, where foreign superpowers, who are non-African can use other African members of the AfCTA as a conduit for dumping products if we do not police the rules of origin properly.”
“Given the corrupt tendencies in most of our African countries, the African Index speaks volumes about that, you might find that it requires a lot of goodwill, systems and infrastructure support, said Gundani.
The trade agreement is also meant to facilitate travel between member states. Visas for travelling in Africa is one of the issues that were raised as a barrier to trade in the continent during the Youth Forum.
As part of efforts towards meeting the objectives of the AfCTA in the region, Zimbabwe became the first and only country in the SADC region to scrap off visa requirements for countries in the SADC region recently.
During his outgoing speech as the chair of Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) earlier in July this year, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Ambassador Frederick Shava said the move was meant to facilitate trade and movement within the region.
“Regarding the implementation of the visa exemption among the SADC Member States and the facilitation of free movement of SADC citizens within the region, I wish to highlight that Zimbabwe is the first and only country that has exempted all SADC Member States from visa requirements, other SADC Member States are undertaking internal processes to ensure that SADC citizens can travel freely in the region.”
Despite the coming in of the trade agreement, Zimbabwe still stands to revamp its economy which is characterized by low production capacity, underdeveloped infrastructure, high taxation system and high costs of doing business if it is to benefit from free trade when compared to other economic giants in the continent.
It is imperative, to start manufacturing and boost the exportation of products as necessitated by the one market.
According to Trend Economy annual international trade statistics published in August this year, Zimbabwe’s main export destinations included South Africa, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Botswana amongst others.
On the contrary, the country’s main imports come from South Africa, Singapore, China, India, Mauritius, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and the USA.
These trends show the disparities within the continental trade systems as other African countries prefer to buy from the outside world rather than within the continent.
The SADC Youth Forum also tackled other issues including the role of the media, inequalities in education, health, entrepreneurship, gender issues and also celebrated International Youth Day.