Darlington Musarurwa in MAPUTO, Mozambique
President Mnangagwa says the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) – a trade pact that is envisaged to create a single market – is “a step forward” likely to promote inclusive growth and enable African countries to jointly work towards achieving a prosperous future.
As part of his intervention during the US-Africa Business Summit’s plenary session titled “Advancing a resilient and sustainable US-Africa partnership” yesterday, the President said the new trading regime that will result from the rollout of the trade agreement, requires African countries to work together to ensure that “we do not leave any single country behind”.
“We have moved forward now to create a continental free trade area. The reason is that we don’t need to leave any single country on the continent behind. We need to work together,” said President Mnangagwa.
Our economies are at different levels of development, modernisation and industrialisation, and it is necessary that when we are together, we can help each other to develop and modernise our economies.
“Yes, we are 1,2 billion (people in Africa), which is a huge market. Among ourselves and as a bloc, I think we can make a statement in relation to our partners and they will recognise that we are strong and we are a unit to be recognised and dealt with as a unique African continent.
“So I believe the African Continental Free Trade Area is a step forward which is necessary for Africa; and that way we can relate to other partners, I think, with more strength and dignity.”
The President was part of the leaders that signed the AfCFTA on March 21 last year in Kigali, Rwanda.
AfCFTA became operational on May 30 this year after Gambia became the 22nd country to ratify the trade pact, which is considered the biggest trade agreement after the World Trade Organisation in 2001.
The agreement’s operational phase is expected to be launched on July 7 at an AU summit in Niamey, Niger.
President Mnangagwa said AfCFTA was part of an evolutionary process in Africa’s development.
“May I say we need to look at the history of Africa: the first phase was the liberation of our continent; the second phase was the unification, the changing of the Organisation of African Unity to the AU,” he said.
Part of the panelists during the plenary session included host President Filipe Nyusi, Hage Geingob (Namibia) and Edgar Lungu (Zambia).
Vice Presidents Ruhakana Rugunda and Thomas Thabane from Uganda and Lesotho, respectively, were also part of the line-up.
Constance Hamilton — the US assistant trade representative for Africa — and GE (Africa) CEO Farid Fezoua also made their contributions during the plenary.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said African leaders have shown the political will to operationalise the AfCFTA, which is likely to attract more investments.
“It is very clear that our leaders in Africa are very committed to the free trade area. It is quite clear to everyone that this was necessary.
“It is a way to make sure that we can all come together, create that 1,2 billion people economy, which creates the right level of demand for foreign investors and for ourselves.
“But it also makes the African economies more attractive because you cease to see them as countries, but as a region and indeed the whole continent, so it is very clear that this is a very important development,” he said.
President Mnangagwa is part of the leaders invited for the four-day US-Africa Business Summit being jointly hosted by Mozambique and Corporate Council on Africa (CCA).
He is accompanied by Ministers Dr Sibusiso Moyo (Foreign Affairs and International Trade), July Moyo (Local Government, Public Works and National Housing), Professor Mthuli Ncube (Finance and Economic Development), Joel Matiza (Transport and Infrastructure Development) and Mangaliso Ndlovu (Industry and Commerce).
CCA is a Washington-based business association that promotes business and investment opportunities between the US and Africa.
More than 1 000 high-level business executives are attending.
Most importantly, the summit provides participants with the opportunity to scout for investments in multiple sectors such as agribusiness, energy, health, infrastructure, ICT and finance, among others.
In addition to providing scope to network with key private sector and government decision-makers, the summit is also a platform to advocate for effective US trade and investment policies.
The summit ends tomorrow.