African Union Commission (AUC) deputy chairperson Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa has bemoaned the pace at which the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) is currently going.
Speaking at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ official launch of the ‘Foreign Policy Conversations Programme’ this week, Nsanzabaganwa who was attending the launch virtually, felt that there is still plenty to be done by African countries.
She advised the nations of the AFCFTA to come up with strategies to accelerate the implementation of free trade Africa and boost their own Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This year in February, Botswana ratified the AFCFTA pledging their commitment to the African Union Agenda 2063 that seeks to make it all possible for all Africans to trade with ease or ‘free trade’. AFCFTA is an initiative that has been there to curate a free trade area in Africa more especially for its members that have ratified with them.
Nsanzabaganwa feels the continent has been lagging far behind in free trade in the continent. She implored the African countries to speed up free trading within the continent.
“As a way to make Africa a free trading continent, we have made it our theme this year to accelerate the implementation of the AFCFTA, so I ask how we are going to achieve this in the remaining six months?” she questioned.
She, however, congratulated Botswana on the success of the inaugural event and also for the commitment towards AFCFTA. “But it’s been 60 years since the inception of the Organisation African Union (AU), which was birthed on May 25, 1963 and it cannot be more imperative that we accelerate the implementation of AFCFTA,” she said.
Nsanzabaganwa elucidated that the founders were clear in their objectives when forming the AU as they expected people of Africa to come together and coordinate the organisation and achieve a better life for the people of Africa. Even though Nsanzabaganwa put the nations under scrutiny, Phadza Butale, who is the chief negotiator at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, stated that Botswana aims to make great strides with AFCFTA.
“It has been said that Botswana ratified the AFCFTA late but I’m saying we joined it at the right time and we believe that this initiative is replete with opportunities for private business. In order to accelerate the implementation, the government plans to involve the private sector in the initiative,” Butale said.
To show that Botswana aims to accelerate the implementation of AFCFTA, Butale revealed that the country has received some funding. “In conjunction with Afrox Bank to which Botswana is shareholder, the Afrox Bank has pledged a fund of one billion USD to be used to try and support businesses in the country especially the automotive sector and this is something that will contribute immensely to the AFCFTA,” he said.
Butale further implored people of Botswana to take advantage of the AFCFTA as it opens doors for many. “This offers a larger market as now Botswana based companies have access to 1.4 billion people now and on top of that there is access to cheaper raw materials,” he said.
Meanwhile, the representative for the private sector who is also the chief executive officer (CEO) at Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA), Mmantlha Sankoloba acknowledged that AFCFTA would be of great help. “The only positive thing the government has done thus far is ratifying the AFCFTA and we believe this will help expand the markets and make it easy for the manufacturers to penetrate the markets in Africa,” she said. Subsequently Sankoloba gave the government a pat on the back for looking out for the private sector this time around. “I have never seen our government like this advocating the private sector to be at the forefront and this is something that is commendable,” she applauded the government.