African countries, including Malawi, stand to benefit from African Development Bankâ€™s (AfDB) assistance in implementing physical infrastructure needed for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017.
AfDB president, Donald Kaberuka, echoed the call of the African countries for the development of trade-related infrastructure and productive capacity building programmes and an enabling policy and legal framework with the aim of contributing specifically to boosting intra-African trade.
Kaberuka was confident that intra-African trade and African exports to the rest of the world could grow very fast if existing efforts were scaled up to improve the continentâ€™s physical infrastructure which continues to undermine competitiveness and trade growth.
“Efforts to address physical infrastructure should also look at soft infrastructure constraints such as regulatory barriers, restrictive regulations on movement of goods and people, poor logistics services and of late, challenges in accessing trade finance. Soft infrastructure constraints can be as pervasive as tariffs at the border, and can easily nullify the competitiveness and efficiency gains derived from investments in physical infrastructure,” Kaberuka warned.
The 19th ordinary session of the Assembly of heads of State and government of the African Union which met from 9-15 July 2012 in Addis Ababa, has maintained the theme of the previous summit, “Boosting Intra-African Trade”.
At the 18th ordinary session held in January 2012, African heads of state had adopted an action plan for boosting Intra-African trade and agreed to establish a CFTA by the indicative date of 2017.
Ministry of Industry and Trade spokesperson Wiskes Nkombezi said on Thursday the CFTA would help address the bottlenecks that Malawi has with other African countries when it comes to trade.
“If we want to export items to Cameroon today for instance, it will not be very easy, but with the CFTA it will become easier. As a way of addressing such hurdles, African countries decided to establish the CFTA. Africa is the least integrated area because others like Europe and Asia trade up to about 60 percent within themselves but Africa is at about 12 percent,” he said.
Nkombezi added that Malawi is also a member of the High Level African Trade Committee (HATC) by virtue of its Chairmanship of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).
“The HATC will serve as a Committee of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union and its main responsibility shall be to facilitate and unlock the blockages in the implementation of the action plan and the architecture for the fast tracking of the establishment of the CFTA for boosting intra-African Trade,” he said.