Harare — A two-day workshop to validate Zimbabwe's strategy for implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) ended in Harare Thursday with participants agreeing to fine tune the plan to ensure the country effectively benefits from opportunities that will be availed once trading commences under the agreement in July 2020.
In closing remarks to the workshop, Ms. Beatrice Mutetwa, Chief Director for Economic Cooperation, International Trade and Diaspora in Zimbabwe's Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ministry, said meticulous implementation of the strategy was key to Zimbabwe benefiting from the free trade area once trading starts.
"Now that the document has been introduced and presented to you, it is my hope that you will further digest the document and make more inputs which will further refine the document which will be finalised by end of October 2019," she told stakeholders attending the workshop, including representatives of the private sector, academia, parliamentarians, civil servants and civil society.
"Therefore, the proof of the pudding is in implementation. The onus is on the private sector to seize the opportunities presented by the AFCTA and run with it. Remember that the rules of origin allow one to cumulate with the rest of the continent not just our traditional partners."
For his part, UNECA's representative, Batanai Chikwene, said the AfCFTA was a great initiative and it was now up to Zimbabwe's private sector and other key players to come up with a winning formula.
"The UNECA is here to support the government of Zimbabwe in pursuing a transformative agenda that changes the lives of the ordinary people on the street. The AfCFTA can be that instrument that can be used to achieve that but we need clarity on execution and implementation of the strategy to ensure the free trade area becomes a real game-change in the country," said Mr. Chikwene.
Private sector engagement, he said, is going to be key going forward. Mr. Chikwene emphasized the National Implementation Committee was also critical and must be supported. The committee, he said, should bring together all key stakeholders together to coordinate efforts of key stakeholders in a structured manner.
"As we continue to discuss the strategy I would like to urge all stakeholders to think critically on how we can increase the participation of women and youth in the trade sector as well as other vulnerable groups. Do not hesitate to make proposals that will strengthen the document and result in the impact that we are all looking for," said Mr. Chikwene.
A representative of the private sector, Mr. Bridon Sibanda of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), said it was important for all the actors involved in the implementation of the AfCFTA strategy to pull in the same direction.
"The workshop has really been fruitful. We have learnt and gained more clarity on the AfCFTA and what needs to be done by the business community to ensure opportunities that are being unveiled by the agreement are fully tapped. We have to be prepared. Let us also learn from the challenges we have had in the past trading within our regional blocs such as SADC and COMESA if we are to reach that milestone," he said.
The two-day workshop to validate Zimbabwe's AfCFTA strategy was preceded by a day-long meeting to sensitize the Zimbabwean private sector on the AfCFTA.