Minister of Trade and Industry Simplex Chithyola Banda says Malawi has a huge opportunity to boost its trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) which is key to promoting socio-economic development.
He said this in Lilongwe on Saturday when Malawi hosted the African Union (AU) Day under the theme ‘Acceleration of AfCFTA implementation’.
Speaking to the delegates during the event attended by AU permanent resident representative to southern Africa David Claude Pierre, the minister said the AfCTA provides an opportunity for Africans to unite their fragmented markets and create a platform for mutually-beneficial trade and commercial relationships.
He said the government has ratified international agreements and implemented policies to facilitate regional and continental trade and urged small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to improve their business practices to be competitive in the AfCTA.
Said Chithyola Banda: “It [AfCFTA] will be an open market. That means foreign traders will be importing their products into the country.
“Therefore, SMEs will have to improve the quality of the products and their trade practices to survive in this market.”
In an interview, Pierre said the continental free trade area will create an opportunity for African leaders to fulfil the ambitions of AU to create an economically independent Africa led by Africans.
The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the AU’s forerunner, was established by newly-independent African States in May 1963 to safeguard the interests and independence of all African States and encourage the continent’s socio-economic development.
Pierre, therefore, said the AfCTA can help the continent to build on the progress of decolonisation and create economic opportunities for its people.
He urged African leaders to take advantage of the continent’s youthful population and use their innovation and energetic dynamism to power the continent’s transformative agenda.
Pierre said: “Around 60 percent of the African population is below 30 years. Young people have energy, young people have ideas. We need to find ways to harness the potential of these young people.
“We are also rich in resources. So, if we can harness all of this potential, Africa will reach the stage where it becomes this powerhouse in the international arena.”
The AfCTA is a trade pact that creates a harmonised and integrated continental market of 1.2 billion people in 55 countries with combined gross domestic product valued at $3.4 trillion.
In April this year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said it was in the process of applying for the guided trade initiative under AfCFTA to enable commercially meaningful trade.
The ministry’s spokesperson Mayeso Msokera earlier said they delayed because their offer was sent back for Malawi Revenue Authority to work on some technicalities on tariffs.
The AfCFTA secretariat developed the AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative to allow commercially meaningful trading under the continental free trade area to test the operational, institutional, legal and trade policy environment to send a positive message to the African economic operators.