Zim shelves plans to join Continental Free Trade Area

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By Alois Vinga

GOVERNMENT has shelved plans to fully join the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) so that it could find space to stabilise local industry which is struggling to produce enough quality goods to compete outside.

This was revealed by Industry and Commerce Ministry’s director of International Trade, Beatrice Mutetwa while addressing parliamentarians early this week.

“We have requested for time out of the ACFTA because our local industry is not producing enough to be able to compete with other countries.

“We have requested for between 13 to 15 years and thereafter, we will be able to compete with our continental counterparts,” she said.

Mutetwa said Zimbabwe was in a peculiar position and needed to work towards achieving an even landscape.

This, she said, was unlike the current situation which only makes the country a market place because it lacked locally manufactured products.

“We need to focus on the industry pillar and infrastructure because we cannot just open up our markets without looking at the supply side. Otherwise we may end up becoming a market for others,” Mutetwa said.

Member countries are requested to open up 90 percent of their markets but Zimbabwe had only offered up 85 percent as considerations are still being made on how the key sectors like tourism and mining will be protected.

ACFTA is the brainchild of the African Union and was initiated in 2012 with the objective of establishing a single trading bloc which enjoys lowered trade barriers across the continent.

The organ will take advantage of the existing regional blocs like SADC which will eventually be unified in the creation of the free trade area.

It is set to bring together the continent’s 55 nations, creating a total 1 billion customers for Africa’s goods and services through a lucrative $3.4 trillion Gross Domestic Product.

The initiative also seeks to accelerate trade between African nations as opposed to the current scenario where intra-continental trade is at its lowest.