Harare — Zimbabwe anticipates that the game-changing African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will create new impetus for investment, trade and industrialization in the country in line with the southern African nation's development plans.
This was said by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ambassador James Manzou in a speech read on his behalf by Ambassador Pavelyn Musaka at the beginning of a two-day workshop to validate the country's national AfCFTA strategy.
Countries are due to commence trading under the AfCFTA on 1 July 2020.
Ambassador Manzou said the country signed and ratified the AfCFTA 'in cognisance of the immense potential envisaged in fully implementing the AfCFTA.'
"We anticipate significant opportunities manifesting themselves, thereby leading to positive transformation of the economic landscape, especially for us here in Zimbabwe. With proper planning we foresee great achievements of higher levels of industrialisation, employment creation, sustained economic growth and development," the Permanent Secretary said.
He said there was need for the country to undertake coherent, prioritised and well sequenced actions aimed at revitalising industrial growth.
"You are here because we in government consider you as an important cog in Zimbabwe's dream of realising Vision 2030 where the country hopes to achieve a middle income status. It is time to come together, and agree on a strategy that will propel us forward within the short to medium term," said Mr. Manzou to private sector representatives and other key stakeholders attending the workshop.
"We do not wish to be a dumping ground for the rest of Africa, but to strategically capture African markets where we can supply processed goods. Value addition should be our clarion call."
He said the country's AfCFTA strategy was expected to identify where comparative advantages lie as the nation seeks to industrialise and implement sustainable value chains that will support economic diversification and maximize its trade potential.
"As government we are proud that the processes of developing this strategy is following a transparent, participatory and inclusive approach which involves all relevant stakeholders, drawn from the public and private sectors, including women, youth, parliamentarians, academia and civil society," the Permanent Secretary added.
Deep consultations were held with key policy makers and implementers, various subsectors drawn from the productive and services sectors, service providers that facilitate trade, representatives of business associations, and other relevant stakeholders with the assistance of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union Commission (AUC) in coming up with the draft strategy that is now being validated.
"As government we look forward to growing industries that will employ more, and begin to formalise the informal," Ambassador Manzou said, adding; "Our dream is to make Vision 2030 a reality. We, therefore, are looking forward to a relevant national strategy that should be implementable, effectively addressing the multitude of needs, concerns and challenges currently confronting the business community."
He implored the private sector to take ownership of the strategy.
"You are the people who are going to drive these competitiveness issues, while our role as government is to create an enabling environment. The public and private sectors should work together to strengthen our relations for the common good of our people as we thrive to develop our economy."
"As you validate the document that is about to be presented to you, I implore you to ensure that the strategy speaks, as well as being in sync with our other policy documents that seek to improve the plight of the youth, women and our small and medium enterprises. Let us ensure that the strategies we craft also encompass our informal sector, with a view of formalising it. It is, indeed, from such endeavours that vibrant industries will evolve. Let us nature the skills and entrepreneurialship through training and mentorship, and ensure that tomorrow's industries and entrepreneurs are a success," added Ambassador Manzou.
For his part, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) President, Mr. Tamuka Macheka, said the country's private sector was doing all it can to ensure it's not caught napping when trading commences under the AfCFTA.
"The ball is definitely in our court as the private sector. We are alive to the fact that this is happening; alive to the benefits of the AfCFTA and the need for us to unlock value. We need to cross borders to go beyond the Southern African Development Community and COMESA if we are to really benefit from the creation of the free trade area. We are excited about the prospects which are being offered by the AfCFTA. That is why we are here," he said.
He added that Africa as a continent should wake up to reality and start developing agendas that put the continent first as shown by the AfCFTA.
Africa must realise its importance, Mr. Macheka said.
"Why is it that every other developed nation or continent is busy strategizing and developing agendas for Africa and how they will benefit from the continent's resources and yet we do not have one for them. It is high time we start doing that - strategizing and dictating terms as we approach the time to start trading under the AfCFTA," he said.
Mr. Macheka urged Zimbabwe to address its skills gap to ensure the opportunities being presented by the AfCFTA are unlocked for both the country's industries and services sector.
The ECA estimates that the AfCFTA has the potential to boost intra-African trade by 52 percent by 2022.