Midlands Bureau Chief
BUSINESS leaders regard the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as the bigger picture for economic growth and have commended Government for being proactive in assisting the country to tap into that wider market.
However, and in order to sustain credibility among the country’s trading partners, business is urging the Government to finalise the tariff offer regime that would guide the implementation of the historic deal.
In his welcome remarks at the opening of a three-day Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) training workshop on AfCFTA here, ZNCC president Dr Tinashe Manzungu said all stakeholders should embrace the AfCFTA concept.
“We commend our government for committing to the bigger picture of being part of AfCFTA. In order to sustain credibility among our trading partners, we urge our Government to finalise implementation for the continental trade protocol aimed at heightening intra Africa trade.
“We as private sector are alive to the realities that borders are collapsing before our eyes, customs duty will be wiped away as a reliable revenue source for the treasury and if we are not braced, we will end up becoming a ‘supermarket economy’ or ‘cash till’ economy to the rest of the world,” Dr Manzungu.
He said the business sector was enthused by Government efforts in implementing the EU funded Sadc Trade Related Facility (TRF) aimed at strengthening Zimbabwe’s National Quality Infrastructure development of the regulatory framework, training of staff and procurement of equipment.
“This, coupled with interventions by UNDP to partner the chamber can only position Zimbabwe on a higher pedestal,” he said.
“Let me remind all present that our relationship with UNDP dates back to years back with the agenda to promote Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) well documented. At one point, the UNDP had been the benefactor to our SDG Award, which recognised companies investing in Sustainability.”
Dr Manzungu said the training will empower private sector players on appreciation of what AfCFTA entails for their businesses.
ZNCC, he said, has noticed a gap where most organisations are not alive to the implications of the AfCFTA agreement on their performance hence the desire to train them on the contents of the agreement.
“As the voice of business, we shall continue living up to the billing by presenting private sector interests, having a partner such as UNDP on board is something no rational soul can ever take for granted, that alone clearly explains the seriousness of the agenda at hand,” said Dr Manzungu.
He said the training is coming on the backdrop of impressive trade figures by the country regardless of the pandemic, which has ravaged both lives and livelihoods.
Dr Manzungu noted the country’s exports have averaged US$4 billion annually against an import bill of US$6 billion over the past decade, which is not good and exports need to be improved.
He said the domination of primary commodities, which is almost 75 percent of the export basket tells a sorry state of affairs.
“The agenda remains to move up the value chain and be involved in value addition. This also can be extended to the concentration of our exports into isolated Sadc nations with SA taking the lion’s share of the market,” said Dr Manzugu.
“This alone exposes us to concentration risk in case SA expedite its import substitution policy, which is already underway under their Industrialization Agenda.”
The ZNCC president said trade facilitation was not the agenda of the Government alone adding that the private sector was also expected to be the major players cum beneficiaries of the whole agenda.
“We are aware under National Development Strategy 1, this is clearly spelt out as we adhere to the spirit of World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement. As the private sector, we shall continue reminding the Government to work on the North-South Corridor Trade Facilitation Initiative, as we marvel at progress recorded so far on modernising both Chirundu and Beitbridge Border Posts,” said Dr Manzungu.