Africa: Tz Pondering Joining AfCFTA - Bashungwa

THE government has expressed its commitment to join the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with the Ministry of Industry and Trade cautioning that though it was a positive thing, the country needed critical analysis before ratification process.

Industry and Trade Minister Innocent Bashungwa told a press conference in Dar es Salaam that the AfCFTA was also an opportunity, but Tanzania was still studying how best to join the economic bloc before ratifying it in order to increase more opportunities for Tanzanians. "So, it is a good thing and as the government we have received it positively.

We are strategically analyzing Tanzania's involvement in this so that we can open up more opportunities for Tanzanians and investors who want to come to our country for the entire African market," the minister pointed out.

Mr Bashungwa was, however, quick to point out that issues that are strategic and international needed to be taken on board carefully so that any decision to join such an economic bloc has positive effects of benefiting all Tanzanians. He assured the people that Tanzania would continue participating in various dialogues of the continent's largest economic bloc.

The minister cited a recent meeting held in Niger where Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan was in attendance. According to him, Tanzanians have not optimized or exhausted all the opportunities that are within East African Community (EAC), of which Tanzania is a member. He said that there were several investment opportunities for businessmen and industrialists available.

"We must take initiatives to ensure investors coming to Tanzania participate fully and also allow Tanzanians take the biggest cake in the market within the Community members who are more than 160 million all together," the minister said.

He was of the view that the people should not look at a new shining thing and forget that Tanzania still needed to reorganize and have a big market share in trade within EAC and in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) of which Tanzania was also a member. "That is why we are continuing to improve the environment for Tanzanian businesspersons to encourage the setting up of more industries.

There is this SADC market that we have also not yet optimizes its potentials to the maximum," Mr Bashungwa said. Therefore, he pointed out, as the debate on the need or otherwise of joining the Africa Continental Free Trade Area was going on. Tanzanians should not forget the markets available in EAC and SADC. The minister suggested that all these economic blocs should be collectively discussed.

The African Continental Free Trade Area is a free trade area, outlined in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union (AU) nations. The free trade area is the largest in the world in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

The agreement was brokered by the AU and signed on by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018. The agreement initially requires members to remove tariffs from 90 per cent of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods and services across the continent. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52 per cent by 2022.

The proposal was set to come into force 30 days after ratification by 22 of the signatory states. On April 2, 2019, the Gambia became the 22nd state to ratify the agreement and on April 29, 2019, the Saharawi Republic made the 22nd deposit of instruments of ratification.

The Agreement went into force on May 30, 2019 and entered its operational phase following a summit on July 7, 2019.

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