Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) is set to host the trade and investment opportunities conference on Wednesday in Bulawayo, aimed at promoting international trade opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The event will run under the ZNCC annual theme for 2022: “Bolstering resilience and innovativeness for sustainable growth.” In an interview, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Matabeleland regional manager Mr Mduduzi Ncube said they have been creating awareness on the benefits of the AfCFTA.
“Regional economic cooperation has been key in the economic development of Africa as first initiated in 1889 through the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) while many Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have been created over the years. In June 2015, the African Union (AU) launched the agreement establishing the AfCFTA which was signed on 21 March 2018.
For two years now ZNCC has been creating awareness of the benefits of the AfCFTA and the preparedness of the country’s stakeholders in tapping into this economic game changer aimed at liberalising intra-Africa trade,” said Mr Ncube.
He said with the AfCFTA, the world’s largest free-trade area, having started trading on 1 January 2021, it is creating a market of 1.2 billion people and currently the eighth economic bloc in the world with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$3.4 trillion that is expected to double by 2050.
Mr Ncube said, after having been launched at the start of the implementation of Zimbabwe’s first National Development Strategy (NDS1), the AfCFTA holds great potential to accelerate Zimbabwe’s implementation and achievement of both the NDS1 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“This will be through increased trade, employment creation, income, foreign currency and economic growth. As part of the deliberations of the upcoming AfCFTA Conference, the Chamber of Commerce seeks to promote the continued awareness of the AfCFTA to enhance its implementation vis-à-vis our preparedness as a country.
“We need to formulate continental strategic partners in order to maximise export growth, to review modalities and opportunities of trading under the AFCFTA.
Among other key things we need to deliberate on actions required to promote economic value chains, to enhance networking among stakeholders in the industry as well as to review and appreciate AfCFTA trade protocols,” added Mr Ncube.
He said the conference will be graced by the Secretary-General for AfCFTA Mr Wamkele Mene, the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Jobst Von Kirchmann, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Dr Frederick Shava and Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr Sekai Nzenza.
Among them will be Sojama Economic Development Institute (SEDI) president Dr Khumbulani Mhlophe, South African business consultant Mr Ravi Ramsamy, Bishop Joshua Maponga, Afreximbank officials and various captains of industry.
Key topics to be covered at the conference include promoting free-inter Africa trade, encoring economic transformation and promoting Vision 2030 among others. Meanwhile, the AfCFTA will increase trade among African countries which currently ranges between 15 to 18 percent and stimulate production through the development of regional value chains, to ensure that manufacturing, agro processing and other activities across the continent are stimulated to supply the market.
Among other key benefits, it will strengthen the capacities of African companies to access and supply world markets and strengthen Africa’s economic and commercial diplomacy.