By Alois Vinga
ZIMBABWE is set to open up 97 % of its markets to both imports and exports for goods originating from within the continent under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement AfCFTA.
AfCFTA 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.
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.
Trading under the new agreement commenced on January 1, 2021. However, Zimbabwe is still concluding the final steps in order to join continental counterparts.
In an update Thursday, acting secretary in the Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Beatrice Mutetwa said Zimbabwe is almost ready to go.
“Zimbabwe’s first tranche of liberalisation will commence following the gazetting of the country’s Tariff Offer which will show the preferential tariffs per year to be applied on imports coming from the continent with the aim of eventually eliminating tariffs. The tariff phasedown on 97 % of the Tariff handbook should be completed by 2030,” she said.
Mutetwa said the nation has ensured that 3 percent of all strategic products were excluded from liberalisation.
Under the trade agreement, countries classified as developing countries like Zimbabwe will gradually eliminate tariffs and open their markets to African exports and imports over five years, for non- sensitive products constitute 90 % of the tariff handbook.
For the remaining 10% of the tariff handbook, 7 % is designated as sensitive products to liberalise in 10 years, while the 3 % is designated as exclusion list not subject to trade liberalisation.
The latest move to join the continental bloc is a major climbdown following the government’s decision reached last year of temporarily pulling out of AfCFTA negotiations in a bid to put in place measures to avoid exposing the nation as a marketplace for highly industrialised nations.
Currently, the nation’s manufacturing capacity is very low to the extent of failing to meet local demand prompting market watchers to speculate that the agreement may expose locals to unfair competition.