Exploitation of AfCTA opportunities could spur economic growth 

By Phephile Motau

The Kingdom of Eswatini has been urged to take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to industrialise the country and create jobs, particularly for the youth.

This was when the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) held a National Consultative Forum to develop the Eswatini AfCFTA Implementation Strategy and Action Plan from November 3-4.

The forum sought the contributions of various stakeholders in the development of the country’s AfCFTA Implementation Strategy and Action Plan focusing on trade in goods and services. The forum was attended by government representatives, public and private sector representatives, the media as well as women and youth organisations.

United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Kingdom of Eswatini George Wachira said the agreement was not self-executing and required Eswatini to deploy deliberate strategies to ensure the private sector is primed to exploit a larger market and product opportunities offered by the AfCFTA through reduced tariff and non-tariff barriers.

He said the AfCFTA would create the biggest free trade area in the world with a market of more than 1.29 billion people and a combined GDP of more than E54 trillion (US$3 trillion).

“The AfCFTA has immense opportunities for increasing intra-regional trade, enhancing production, promoting economies of scale, creating jobs, raising incomes, and improving the standard of living of the African people,” Wachira said.

He added that the effective exploitation of the AfCFTA will require consensus among all stakeholders. It was therefore imperative to establish a well-resourced National AfCFTA Committee. The National AfCFTA Committee was part of the framework to entrench and facilitate the required consultative processes in the implementation of the agreement. The committee should have representatives from the major stakeholders including women and the youth, he advised.

Million Habte, AfCFTA Secretariat representative highlighted the importance of infrastructure development and industrialization in the implementation of the agreement.

“The Agreement is important for the creation of gainful jobs, especially for the youth. Eswatini must develop a strategy to ensure access to the African market hence this process that started today”, Habte said.

Batanai Chikwene, UNECA Programme Management Officer, outlined the process of developing the National AfCFTA Implementation Strategy for Eswatini and the next steps after the initial National AfCFTA Forum. He underscored the importance of leveraging the AfCFTA in industrializing Eswatini and in creating decent and gainful jobs, particularly for the youth.

The process of developing the Eswatini AfCFTA Strategy will be followed by country-wide consultations with different stakeholders including the private sector, academia, women, and youth groups. Thereafter the strategy will be drafted and reviewed by Cabinet and Parliamentarians before it is validated. The strategy is expected to be launched by the first quarter of 2023.

The Ministry of Commerce Industry and Trade acting Principal Secretary Cebile Nhlabatsi emphasised Eswatini’s commitment to implementing the AfCFTA Agreement to take full advantage of the opportunities provided for both under trade in goods and services.

AfCFTA latest developments:

  • 54 signatories and 44 ratifications
  • 46 provisional schedules and tariff concessions and 47 schedules of specific commitments of which 16 are verified.
  • Over 100 potential trades are in the pipeline, 50 from Ghana, 40 from Kenya, 20 from Egypt, 25 from Mauritius, eight from Rwanda and four from Cameroon under the pilot AfCFTA facilitated and Guided Trade Initiative.

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