By Freeman Ngulu
13 December 2016 – The Minister of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development, Hon Immanuel Ngatizeko said regional trade is hampered by a host of preferential access agreements, and cumbersome procedures between African states.
The minister spoke at a feedback session held in Windhoek last week on the outcome of the AU Africa Trade Week and the High-level Africa Trade Facilitation Forum which recently took place in Addis Ababa.
Ngatizeko and members of a delegation from the Namibia Trade Forum, the Walvis Bay Corridor Group and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry shared strategies how to improve the flow of goods and service to the closest major markets in the Southern African Development Community and beyond. Trade is seen as the major tool to activate the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) as part of Africa’s overall integration agenda – Agenda 2063.
Backed by the Abuja Treaty, Agenda 2063 is relying on developing a skilled labour force to build an African Economic Community through six stages over a transitional period of 34 years, one of which is accelerated productivity, economic transformation and market integration.
On the importance of intra-Africa trade for Namibia, Annascy Mwanyangapo, the Deputy Permanent Secretary (Trade and Commerce) in the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, said that navigating th legal means and methods for conducive intra-Africa trade is tricky. However, he pointed out that existing regional block will open the first cross-border trade doors.
Mwanyagapo said that Africa has 14 trade blocs to facilitate greater cross-border trade and boost intra-African cooperation. This will eventually lead to integration under the larger Free Trade Agreements.
Intra-African trade accounts for an estimated 12% to 14% of African trade while more than 70% of all African trade is with the rest of the world. About 50% of this is in unrefined raw commodities.
“In light of this, Africa needs to look inward to industrialize, create jobs, produce and consume our own products, and the environment must be such that investors and traders find it consumer friendly while at the same time removing bottlenecks to trade” she said.
Maria Immanuel from the Namibia Trade Forum, which acts a conduit between the government and the private sector on trade and industrial policy, said advocating for Public-Private Dialogue is the best model to implement trade agreements.
“Governments don’t trade, private sector does. Governments negotiate trade agreements but it is the private sector that implements trade agreements” Immanunel said adding that some non-trade aspects also need to have a Public-Private Dialogue at regular intervals.
Minister Nagatizeko said that the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT) draw their mandates from trade agreements such as EPAs with the EU, AGOA of the US, the WTO Doha Agenda and mega-trade agreements that are in the making, considering the implications of the BREXIT factor.
However, referring to the tit-for-tat approach of trade, Ngatizeko said that “multi-sectoral dialogues and trade negotiations by the African Union and its member states should not be driven in isolation or with a blind eye to what is happening around us.”
“The process has started. There are a lot of benefits to be derived from these processes. It is good that we as Africans have resolutely decided to drive it and give it the shape we want” he stated.