Minister: Work towards maximising AfCFTA benefits

ZANZIBAR: THE Zanzibar Minister for Trade and Industries Development Omar Said Shaaban has called on Zanzibaris, particularly members of the business community, to secure the full benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA).

Mr Shaaban made the revelation at the climax of the week-long celebrations of the African Statistics Day-2023 held at the Tourism College Hall, Maruhubi where he emphasised on the use of data in developing trade.

African Statistics Day is an annual event that is celebrated on November 18th of every year, to raise public awareness of the importance of statistics in all aspects of social and economic life.

This year’s theme is “Modernising Data Ecosystems to Accelerate the Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): The Role of Official Statistics and Big Data in the Economic Transformation and Sustainable Development of Africa.”

The theme aligns with the African Union theme of the year 2023, “Acceleration of the AfCFTA Implementation”, and encapsulates the call to modernise data systems on the continent to produce and use high-quality official statistics and seize the opportunities that big data presents.

Mr Shaaban challenged importers and exporters of Zanzibar that the AfCFTA is still underutilised, for example in 2018 Zanzibar exported goods worth 2.3bn/- to only 14 African countries, while in 2019 and 2020 exports dropped due to Covid-19 pandemic and increased again in 2022 with exports worth 12.8bn/-.

The minister said that imports from Zanzibar to 23 African countries was worth 16.9bn/- in 2018; 12.4bn/- in 2020; 19.7bn/- in 2021; and 28.2bn/- in 2021. “Basing on these data, we need to do more in trade under AfCFTA,” he said.

He mentioned that to fulfill and realise the objectives of the agreement, States parties need to progressively eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods; progressively liberalise trade in services; cooperate on investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy; and cooperate on all trade-related areas; among others.

The Zanzibar Chief Statistician from the Office of Chief Government Statistician (OCGS) Mr Salum Kassim Ali said his office has been working with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in making the data available for use.

Chairperson of OCGS-Zanzibar Board Ms Ambassador Amina Salum Ali and the 2022- Population and Housing Census Commissioner Ambassador Mohamed Hamza reminded people at the climax of the African Statistic Day-2023 that “Statistics remain important in trade and planning, from family to national level, use it.”

The activities to celebrate the Day in Zanzibar included a press conference, entertainment (football match), and a forum that involved stakeholders in trade to discuss challenges in cross border trade.

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