Private sector challenged to utilize AfCFTA to expand businesses

The Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe has challenged the private sector to take advantage of the prevailing market opportunities created by African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to expand their businesses in Africa and beyond.

Gwengwe lamented that only15 percent of goods traded in Africa are produced within the continent, a scenario that dates back to the time of colonial masters.

Sosten Gwengwe

He urged African countries to utilize the agreement to change this status quo.

“When all is done, the onus is on the private sector to take advantage of the prevailing market opportunities created by AfCFTA. This initiative should inform and encourage all the stakeholders, particularly, the private sector to take advantage of the huge regional open market opportunities available now,” he said.

Gwengwe made the remarks in Lilongwe on Wednesday when he opened the validation Workshop for the National Implementation Strategy under AfCFTA.

The objective of the workshop is to validate a draft a National Strategy for the implementation of AfCFTA, which consultants Nelson Nsiku and Pilirani Chuma have prepared.

AfCFTA is premised on the realization that African countries have, for a long time, been trading with the outside world more than other economies on the continent.

AfCFTA, therefore, is there to ensure that African countries start trading more among themselves, and create wealth for Africa to benefit African populations.

Gwengwe said it is lamentable that 85 percent of goods traded in Africa come from outside the continent, with the remainder being produced with the continent.

“I consider AfCFTA as a game changer to our old behaviours and traditions so that we can trade more among ourselves for the betterment of our peoples. AfCFTA reinforces the dreams of the founding fathers of the African Union who aspired for a united and integrated Africa. AfCFTA marks a new dawn to African economies, and a new hope for boosting intra-Africa trade,” he said.

Among other benefits, AfCTA is expected to bring together 55 African countries with a combined population of more than 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class, and a combined gross domestic product of more thanUS$3.4 trillion.

It is also envisaged that the agreement will facilitate the creation of a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesspersons and investments thus paving way for acceleration in the establishment of the African Customs Union.

Gwengwe stated that the AfCTA market will make it easier and cost effective to trade inter-continentally and attract FDI for natural and regional infrastructure projects.

Additionally, the AfCTA is expected to facilitate intra African trade by making cross-border trade easier, simpler and less costly.

“As a country, which has premised its development on a trade-based economic strategy, Malawi is proud of its decision to ratify the agreement and is committed to the AfCFTA and its ability to help create an efficient regional trade environment and rules-based system as an integral part of regional economic and trade governance.

“I would like to call upon the private sector gathered here to make sure that the National Strategy reflects the aspirations of your business sectors in order to make significant contribution overall economic development. Let me also emphasize the point that the role of the governments is not to engage in business operations, but rather to create a conducive business environment for the private sector to operate with minimum hassles,” said Gwengwe.

Speaking earlier, the Director of Trade in the Ministry of Trade, Clement Kumbemba, said the strategy provides a diagnosis of the Malawian economy and its recent trends and future trajectory as it looks at the trade, production and competitiveness frameworks that have a bearing on Malawi.

“It analyses the trade potential for goods and services highlighting the key issues and action points,” said Kumbemba.

The workshop has attracted foreign dignitaries from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and AU who have travelled from Ethiopia and Zambia to facilitate this validation workshop.

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