By Patricia Kapulula:
The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has potential to transform economies such as Malawi through industrialization and value chains to new markets across the continent, Secretary General for the Secretariat of AfCFTA, His Excellency Wemkele Mene has said.
Mene said in an interview on Wednesday that the opportunity is there for Malawi to move beyond the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in export diversification as the country has natural resources which makes it able to benefit from the large market through industrialisation and value added production.
The Secretary General who was on a courtesy call visit to some heads of states on the continent, visited Malawi to lobby President Dr Lazarus Chakwera as SADC Chair so that the AfCFTA agenda is supported at the African Union (AU) level.
He said the alignment of the Malawi 2063 vision with the AU Agenda 2063 is important in as far as the implementation of the agreement is concerned.
“The alignment of the MW2063 vision with the AU Agenda 2063 vision both are seeking for industrialisation in a number of years that we should aspire to be a more industrialised continent,” he said.
The MW2063 vision aspiration is to be a more industrialised country leveraging on the value chains.
Mene said he was very encouraged with the approach Malawi has taken on free trade area agreement.
While in the country, Mene met President Chakwera, Minister of Industry, Sosten Gwengwe and the private sector.
One of the things that came out strongly from the meeting with the private sector was the need for trade finance to which Mene said the secretariat is working with the Afrexim Bank to see the type of financing facility that can be mobilised for the benefit of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
He described the meetings as important saying he got assurance of Malawi’s commitment to the agreement.
“The President is well advised and well informed about developments in the AfCFTA and, more importantly, the President is aware that there are benefits to Malawi in the free trade area and one of them is the shipment of the agricultural products to South Sudan.
“So we are looking at how we can model this shipment and roll it out into other areas of the economy, other regions and other parts of the continent. We also discussed the importance of logistics and having a good logistics network and good infrastructure,” he said.
For this reason, Mene said development institutions on the African continent have a role to play in order to support the building of infrastructure that supports trade.
Minister of Trade, Sosten Gwengwe concurred with Mene on the agenda 2063 saying the vision is to see an industrialised Malawi as well as Africa by 2063 which is also in line with the MW2063.
He said this can be achieved if the country exports not just raw stuff but high end products with value addition.
“The President has created a special Ministry of Industry and is preaching about value addition.
“So you would see that in all this there is a momentum that is really being supported by AfCFTA agenda that we should move towards value additions at a small scale with SMEs but also at the large corporate so that as a country we should start looking at linkages in value chains so that going forward we should know and be assured that there is a market for our products,” said Gwengwe.
He observed that the importance of producing value added products is crucial as it leads to industrialisation of a country hence boundaries should not be the limit as people can sell across the borders.
AfCFTA has an access to new markets of 1.2 billion people with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$3.4 trillion.