Trade Winds

Time for Zambia to be clear on its stance on AfCFTA

By David Whitehouse

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Posted on February 25, 2022 14:19

Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema
Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021. Andy Buchanan/Pool via REUTERS

Signals from the Zambian government that it will delay committing to African free trade mask a dilemma over transition to a more diversified, value-added economy.

Minister of commerce Chipoka Mulenga this month said the country has requested more time before committing to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), citing a need to fully engage the private sector first. The accord as it stands favours countries which already have well-established value-adding activities, he says. Zambia has signed and ratified the agreement.

The minister’s assessment “aligns with our own view, which suggests that countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Kenya are best positioned to benefit the most” from AfCFTA in its current form, says Irmgard Erasmus, senior financial economist at Oxford Economics Africa in Cape Town. “Zambia effectively risks very little by opting to hold out” on implementation.

Countries with relatively low import trade barriers and diversified economies stand to benefit the most from free trade, while countries which depend

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