Editor's Comment

Africa should remove trade barriers

KENYAN President Uhuru Kenyatta has added his voice on the need to remove barriers that hinder international trade.
Mr Kenyatta’s call comes hardly a month after the African Union Assembly launched the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations during the 25th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Governments on June 15 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The launch of the CFTA negotiations was preceded by a high level panel discussion on the CFTA.
The objective was to discuss the importance and benefits of the CFTA for the continent.
Currently, it is documented that Africans trade only 12 percent of their merchandise among themselves.
That is why Mr Kenyatta, one of the champions of the CFTA, has continued to highlight the importance and critical role the CFTA is for the continent.
Speaking in Ndola on Saturday when he graced this year’s Zambia International Trade Fair, Mr Kenyatta appealed to officers working at international borders to work extra hard in implementing instruments that can enhance trade between Zambia and Kenya.
President Kenyatta, who has also called for the continued signing of multi- and bilateral agreements that promote international trade among nations, knows the benefits of the CFTA: prosperity, job creation for youth, peace, security and agricultural development.
Cross-border trade is an integral part of the modern world economy and international markets are an important platform for the exchange of goods and services.
Economists say that there are gains from trade for countries involved.
And with six out of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world being in Africa, it is envisaged that the CFTA will build one common African market and address the challenges of youth migration and poverty issues.
Mr Kenyatta’s call is timely because Africa is one of the few continents still exporting its raw materials to other countries, depriving itself of the opportunity to create decent jobs for its people.
So, if African countries start removing artificial borders that fragment the African market, the CFTA – if it is implemented – will benefit big and small countries.
Africa has no choice but to remove the artificial boundaries it has created for itself – of course having inherited them from colonial times.
Mr Kenyatta’s clarion call is timely for the continent to come together and establish one big market.
To most Zambians, Mr Kenyatta’s advice may sound far-fetched, yet it is real and Zambia, along with other Southern African Development Community member states, can learn from the Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional group of 15 countries which has implemented a single passport to facilitate the intra-regional movement of people and goods across the West African region.
Zambia and the SADC bloc may also wish to learn from the East African Community (EAC), a regional economic bloc comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, which signed the treaty for establishment of the EAC in 1999.
The EAC came into force in 2000 following the realisation of a large regional economic bloc encompassing Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda with a combined population of more than 130 million people and a combined gross domestic product of US$74.5 billion.
EAC’s regional integration process is at a high pitch at the moment as reflected by the encouraging progress of the East African Customs Union and the establishment in 2010 of the Common Market.
Therefore, when Mr Kenyatta espouses the need for removal of trade barriers in Africa, he is not speaking from without.
It is a message that not only Zambia should embrace, but the whole continent, because full-scale regional trade will help reduce poverty in Africa and improve the living conditions of its people.

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