Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) says embracing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA) is critical in busting the adverse economic impact of illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the Western countries and its allies.
The business lobby group has since urged its members to prepare themselves and take advantage of the wider market presented by the historic regional market, which came to force in January this year.
The AfCTA is touted as the world’s biggest single market with 1,2 billion people expected to contribute US$3 trillion annually to the continent’s Gross Domestic Product.
Addressing a press conference in Bulawayo on Monday ahead of next week’s ZNCC trade conference on AfCFTA to be held in the city, the chamber’s national deputy president Mr Golden Muoni said: “Given a wider market being presented by the AfCFTA, as a country if we tap into such opportunities, we must forget about sanctions.
“Since 2000, there has been talk about sanctions, and we are saying through AfCFTA, there is more trade among ourselves within the continent.”
Following the successful Land Reform programme embarked on early 2000s, Zimbabwe was slapped with the illegal economic sanctions by the West. Under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa the Government has championed an international re-engagement drive to thaw the relations between Zimbabwe and the global community and seek new economic opportunities.
As such, Mr Muoni said ZNCC was aware of the potential presented by AfCFTA hence the need to facilitate linkages between local businesses and sister chambers across Africa to build synergies.
“Where do we want to go as Zimbabwe in this matrix, how prepared are we and how much information do people have in terms of Small to Medium Enterprises, companies and citizens on the opportunities that come with the AfCFTA?
“The media also play a role in facilitating and making sure that the citizens, companies, businesspeople understand the meaning of this.”
For a long time, Mr Muoni said, the Government has promulgated a number of Statutory Instruments (SIs) around protecting local industry, but the coming into being of AfCFTA meant that markets have been opened up and local businesses should brace for competition under such a regime.
“The opening up of markets under the AfCFTA means it won’t be the same case as during that period when the Government had a lot of SIs that have been around to protect local industry,” he said.
“There are also many threats, which are coming with this so it means we also have to look at our challenges as a country. We need to look at our infrastructure, what is the role of banks and what is the role of insurance?
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done and this should not only be from the Government and the private sector, but also from the media,” he said. — @okazunga