9 July 2018

Namibia: Geingob Dissatisfied With Continental Trade Agreement

PRESIDENT Hage Geingob says Namibia is still dissatisfied with some aspects of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, despite signing the agreement at the African Union summit in Mauritania last week.

Geingob made the remarks on Saturday when he returned from the AU summit and a visit to Nigeria.

The President said he was dissatisfied with the way the agreement was drawn up and "pushed through" without appropriate consideration of the impact on smaller markets, such as Namibia.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) is expected to remove barriers to trade, such as tariffs and import quotas, to allow the free flow of goods and services between African Union member states.

It is also expected to boost commerce, growth and employment for over 1,2 billion people on the continent, and would create one of the world's largest free trade blocs. The agreement would likewise compel African countries to increase their manufacturing capacity to be able to export to other countries.

Although Namibia has already committed to the agreement, Geingob said the country has raised concerns over some components, such as the 0,2% levy charged on imports which will be paid by all member states, which he said would disadvantage smaller markets that are dependent on imports.

"We signed the ACFTA, although we have some reservations because we have the SADC Free Trade Area, and we have the tripartite area. We have registered our dissatisfaction," the President stated.

"When you look at the details of the agreement, you can see there are mistakes. There are small countries like Namibia which are open. When we talk about the 0,2% on imports, that will be a lot of money to us," he said.

Geingob added that the AU would assess Namibia to determine the levy the country should pay. After the assessment, Namibia would be paying nearly US$4 million, or about N$54 million at the current exchange rate, instead of US$2 million (N$27 million).

"We are now classified as a rich country because of the high per capita that we have. Nobody cares about the distribution of the wealth. They must understand our position that our country was oppressed, so distribution is not even in Namibia. So, we cannot just take this artificial mathematical formula and say we are rich, and they therefore charge us a lot," he stressed. Despite this, the President said the government would put measures in place to facilitate the country's participation in the larger continental market. One such measure was removing the veterinary cordon fence to increase beef production for export.

"Of course, our beef is in demand in other countries. Nigeria is even asking that we must send experts in meat processing because we are advanced," Geingob said.

"But we don't have beef because we don't have enough cattle. We have to open up the red line so that we can have more meat, which can be exported," he continued.

He added that the issue of removing the red line "is not a question of whether we want it or not, it is a question of health".

"So, unless we also address the other side of the Angolan border, because the cattle are moving freely, and if Angolan cattle are not treated, they are going to bring diseases into our country," Geingob added.

Prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said in an interview with The Namibian on Saturday that the government has been negotiating with the Angolan authorities about erecting a border fence in order to eventually eliminate the red line.

She added that the removal of the red line was also among the agenda points for the land conference, scheduled for October this year.

"We are hoping that we will come out of the land conference with consensus on how to expedite this matter," she noted.

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