Windhoek — President Hage Geingob yesterday confirmed that Namibia will soon sign up to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which will give the country easier access to the African market currently valued at nearly N$50 trillion.
Namibia has always been pro-AfCFTA but delayed signing the actual agreement to first ensure all its bases were covered through an inclusive consultative process, said Geingob during a meeting with AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat at State House yesterday.
The president gave the assurance that Namibia is fully committed to the integration of the continent and strongly believes that its own economic development depends on advancing regional and continental economic cooperation and integration.
"Africa's advancement remains first and foremost a matter for Africans. Namibia reiterates her commitment to the AfCFTA and the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment, and will expedite internal processes to sign and ratify these instruments," Geingob said.
African leaders have agreed that the AfCFTA takes effect within 18 months, but first at least 22 countries must formally ratify the agreement.
There is already a problem with the time frame, with Africa's biggest economies saying it is unrealistic as it is too short a notice to wrap up negotiations among the African countries that already signed up to the agreement.
Moulded in the form of the European Union's version of free trade, the AfCFTA presents immense opportunities for African countries to trade among themselves in a market valued at nearly US$4 trillion (about N$50.6 trillion) without trade restrictions such as tariffs.
By signing up to the AfCFTA individual African countries agree to remove tariffs on 90 percent of goods, with only 10 percent of tariffs applicable on specially defined goods when trading with one another.
It also asks African countries to give preference to 'Made in Africa' goods, which, while it is good news, poses a challenge when it comes to ensuring quality standards on goods.
Currently not all African countries have the same quality standards and the regulation and enforcement of these standards vary. This is to the extent that multi-national companies trading in consumer goods package goods differently, according to markets where the goods go, to ensure, and pass the inspection of, the varying quality standards in each of the countries they export to.
"We might have sent missing or confusing signals but we are committed to the reform. We will be part and parcel of that reform. We would like things to be done in a consultative and inclusive way so we follow all the steps, so there is no way to say I was not part of it once it is implemented. We will implement Agenda 2063 and its first 10-year implementation plan in order to achieve the Africa we want," Geingob told Mahamat.
The establishment of the AfCFTA is the first Agenda 2063 flagship project on target for completion within the roadmap established in pursuance of Agenda 2063's First Ten Year Implementation Plan, aimed at boosting Africa's economic growth and intra-African trade through integration by creating a 'One African Market'.
Without going into details, Geingob said the government got a report from the Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development Minister Tjekero Tweya who attended the meeting of ministers on the issue.
"He gave us a ... report. We are happy with his report and we will sign. We will make that commitment we didn't make that time. Our fears are not that we are against the idea. We are Pan-Africanists. We believe in the unity of Africa. Africa has been on our side - as a small country we think we can only be strong if we are united. Therefore, we comply with all the requirements that I think AU requires from us," Geingob noted.
The AfCFTA gives birth to the world's largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization was formed in 1995.
Geingob noted AfCFTA is an integral part of the broader African integration and development agenda, as expounded in Agenda 2063; it represents an important achievement in the fulfillment of the Pan-African aspirations of the founding fathers of the OAU, who wished for a united and peaceful Africa, enjoying inclusive growth, sustainable development and socio-economic prosperity.