AS Namibia launches its national African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) action plan, calls have been made for urgent policy and regulatory reforms.
Director of the UN Economic Commission for Africa Eunice Kamwendo said there is an urgent need for Namibia to explore sources of efficiency improvements across the productive sector through policy and regulatory reforms and to build export readiness capacity across all sectors.
She said by reducing both tariff and non-tariff barriers and facilitating the free movement of goods and services, the agreement broadens the business horizon for Namibian entrepreneurs beyond the traditional Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) markets.
“While the diversification of export markets beyond Sacu and SADC will create opportunities, it will invariably expose Namibian producers and businesses to new challenges, hence the need for building competitiveness,” Kamwendo said.
The country urgently needs to diversify its manufacturing capabilities and produce more value-added goods, she said.
“Failure to do so will continue to undermine the country’s competitiveness as Africa’s trade liberalises,” Kamwendo said.
She was speaking yesterday at the launch of Namibia’s national AfCFTA strategy and action plan in Windhoek.
The launch of the strategy fast-tracks the implementation of the AfCFTA in Namibia.
The strategy contains seven policy objectives with detailed action plans which include developing and submitting tariff offers and services schedules, the establishment of an implementation committee, revamping the country’s industrial policy and implementing it, and focusing on women and the youth.
Industrialisation and trade minister Lucia Iipumbu said the strategy sets in motion the process of identifying and catalysing key value addition and trade opportunities based on the country’s comparative and competitive advantage.
“The strategy will enable Namibia, particularly traders, investors and economic operators, to tap into the opportunities provided by the agreement through its effective implementation, focusing on regulatory adaptation, institutional coordination and capacity building; as well as addressing critical trade and supply-side constraints,” Iipumbu said.
There are significant opportunities that will emanate from the implementation of the AfCFTA for the country, she said.
“The government is committed and will continue to streamline policies and legislation to ease trade and grow our economy for the benefit of all our citizens,” Iipumbu said.
Also speaking at the opening was Melaku Desta, the coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre, who said the impact of the AfCFTA is likely to be unevenly distributed across different segments of society.
“That is why implementation of the AfCFTA needs to be guided by principles of justice, equity, and inclusivity,” Desta said.
For the promise of the AfCFTA to materialise in Namibia, Desta said the private sector should be made aware of the opportunities created by the initiative and equipped with the tools to exploit those opportunities.
Namibia signed the agreement on 2 July 2018, and deposited the instruments of ratification on 1 February 2019, unlocking access to a market of 1,3 billion people.
Free trade commenced officially under the AfCFTA agreement at the start of 2021, but so far there has been little trading under the agreement.