The private sector in Zimbabwe has admitted that local manufacturers are not yet ready to join the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) due to serious economic challenges and policy inconsistencies obtaining back home.
Speaking at the national forum on the AFCFTA Wednesday, former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, Sifelani Jabangwe said that the country's manufacturers had been sidelined in the processes and were facing a number of limitations to fully embrace the initiative.
"We would like to highlight some concerns. As you may be aware, we have similar commitments with the Southern African Development Community, Common Market for East and Southern Africa, Tripartite Free Trade Area as well as other bilateral free trade agreements which Zimbabwe is a signatory to," he said.
Jabangwe said the country has also signed another agreement to enter into a partnership with the European Union and one of the issues which need to be addressed is the implementation of the agreements.
"There has been more top to down approach in implementation and as private sector we also need inclusion in order to have ownership of such initiatives. Currently, as we participate in this, the challenge we are facing is to engage the private sector for them to participate in the ACFTA negotiations because they are currently grappling with the current state of our economy," Jabangwe said.
The top industrialist said to some extent, most of the private sector players viewed initiatives of this kind as one of those programmes that have once been entered into by SADC, COMESA and other organisations but failed to bring anything to fruition.
He said there was poor trade routes connectivity within African markets, a situation which continues to give European markets a comparative advantage.
Jabangwe also expressed doubts over the continent's capacity to benefit from AFCFTA arguing that most companies on the continent were manufacturing the same kind of goods and exporting to the same markets.
In February this year, Industry and Commerce Ministry director of International Trade, Beatrice Mutetwa told parliamentarians that Zimbabwe requested for time out of the AFCFTA due to low industry productivity.
"We have requested for between 13 to 15 years and thereafter, we will be able to compete with our continental counterparts," she said.
However, government now appears to be ready to proceed with the plans to join the trade platform.
Zimbabwe signed the Agreement Establishing the AFCFTA on 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.
AFCFTA aims at creating a single Market for Goods and Services, facilitated by movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African Continent, in accordance with the Pan African Vision.