PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan on Monday shared her perspective on how African countries could successfully implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), stressing on removing Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) within the continent, among others.
“When our people approach regional or international markets, there are a number of NTBs such as permits, licences and so on. If the whole of Africa is working to remove the NTBs, then business is going to grow,” President Samia said yesterday in Dar es Salaam when addressing the AfCFTA Conference on Women and Youths in Trade.
She explained that in the East African Community (EAC) member states have tried to remove such barriers and trade has grown up to six or seven times in three years.
“I was looking at figures for imports and exports within Africa, the figures are still very low, it’s a shame that we trade more outside the continent than between ourselves,” Ms Samia stated.
The three-day conference, which started on Monday, pulled together top leaders from different African countries, including incumbent and former presidents and vice presidents.
The theme for the conference is: “Women and Youth: The Engine of AfCFTA Trade in Africa’.
Ms Samia said the AfCFTA provides a big opportunity to the private sector to be a catalyst for development, but warned countries must ensure that they remove all trade barriers to ease business.
On other hand, the Tanzanian leader singled out the issue of low Infrastructure development, something which creates gap among the countries.
“We are just talking about regional infrastructure projects, but there is low implementation,” she pointed out.
President Samia also touched on the aspiration of Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU), which is to have a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
She said to achieve the implementation of that regional agenda; therefore, it was a duty of all countries to ensure they make economic reforms in order to bring better life to people.
“Let me also emphasise on education for youths, particularly the use of technology. China builds its economy through youths, between 18 and 35 years old, engaging in technology,” she said, adding: “So we must also draw a leaf since we have many youths who can build our economy.”
On the other hand, the president encouraged countries to continue investing in human resources, especially women and youths to enable them to have a strong labour force with enough ability.
“With a skilled workforce we will use our resources effectively, including adding value and boost the economy, hence making Africa have a huge contribution in the world market,” she stated.
President Samia also spoke about food insecurity in the continent, suggesting there should be appropriate statistics on agricultural production to determine where there is food shortage and where there is surplus.
“African statisticians should work hard to give us statistics so we can know where it is produced and where there is market,” she elaborated.
Earlier, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson for the African Union Commission, said the Agenda 2063 of the African Union is founded on the conviction that the people of Africa are the architects of the continent’s sustainable development.
It seeks to create a prosperous Africa whose development relies on potentials offered by African people, especially its women and youths.
She said the AfCFTA was not only designed to increase intra-trade flow but also to lift African people out of poverty by offering them an enabling environment.
“I therefore call upon governments’ authorities, including ministers, central banks to subscribe to these inter-continental efforts of customising to a local market and committing to report progress in regular intervals,” she appealed, adding: “Africa needs to feed itself, to industrialise and to trade more within its borders.”
The Vice-President of Liberia, Jewel Taylor, urged the actors of the AfCFTA to ensure that general commitment is translated to action.
The engagement of all stakeholders to ensure free movement of trade is paramount.
“Few months ago, I visited Uganda and spoke to the director of trade who said they were looking for rubber for their factory, I asked where they buy rubber and he replied that they buy from Malaysia. I asked whether he knew that West Africa produces rubber and he said he was not aware,” she recalled.
She said countries must ensure that an enabling environment, policies are in place to make free movement of goods and services and become accessible to all.