By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
PRODUCTS from various Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) and cooperatives need to be pooled together to meet export demand under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Zambia needs to devise and explore a different approach to AfCFTA implementation in comparison to other trade protocols such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
This is according to the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) Board member, Sajeev Nair.
Mr Nair said the best way was to strengthen competitiveness of domestic industries and SMEs as well as enhance the trade defence mechanism in order to benefit from the free trade agreement. “Unlike SADC and COMESA Free Trade Areas (FTAs) which was small in market size and a few countries involved. AfCFTA brought the whole of Africa into FTA, where you have large market to export.
“At the same time, Zambia will face import competition from all those countries for various products and services,” he said in an interview.
Mr Nair stressed that Zambia needed to enhance its productive capacity, standards and competitive edge to increase export earnings by tapping into a larger market of AfCFTA.
He said since Zambia had experience in participating in other FTAs, it could open up markets and choose which needed to be promoted for exports and sectors that must be protected from huge import surge.
“Private sector need to be consulted much more at national and provincial level before offering tariff duty concessions to other countries, and public private and also private to private partnership is cardinal right from the beginning in implementing AfCFTA protocol, which has been launched this year,” Mr Nair said.
He indicated that AfCFTA offers opportunities for cross border traders, women and youth to get involved in trade and business, including e-commerce.
Meanwhile, Commerce, Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary, Mushuma Mulenga, said AfCFTA presented a huge opportunity for Zambia to increase its export earnings by tapping into the larger market of 54 countries with a combined population of more than 1.3 billion people and a purchasing power of about US$3 trillion.
Mr Mulenga said this when he made the statement at a consultative forum this week organised by CUTS in collaboration with The Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry and Oxfam Zambia.
And Oxfam Country Director, Dailess Judge, said there was need to continue engaging with Government to mobilise resources and sustain results-oriented public-private and multi-stakeholder sector dialogue for change and mutual accountability for AfCFTA.