Panellists to a discussion on the country’s preparedness on Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) have challenged businesses to get off their comfort zones, observing that Malawi needs be innovative and build resilience to ably benefit from the pact.
The panellists said this on Monday during a session on unlocking regional and global value chains through the implementation of the AfCTA, held within the Intra Africa Trade Fair road show conference at Amaryrills Hotel in Blantyre.
The panellists agreed that AfCFTA is the best stimulus for Africa to come together and benefit from the biggest market in the world.
Afrexim Bank senior manager Dr Gainmore Zaname observed that it is important for the country to leverage on its strengths and learn from weaknesses to build its capacity in order to tap from the big African market.
“This is not time to take the business-as-usual approach because the market forces alone will not be enough to address the fundamental challenges that are affecting Intra-Africa Trade.
“Intra Africa trade is currently low at 16 percent which means we are trading more with outsiders but the reality is most products that we Africans import from those outsiders comes from Africa. This is thus an opportunity for the private sector to take this as an opportunity to get their products and needs closer”
He observed that one of the challenges to Intra-Africa trade is that people do not have information about markets within the continent saying businesses should be proactive to establish where they can trade.
On his part Malawi Investment Trade Centre board chairman Karl Chokotho said the country needs to reposition itself and build capacity to meet the demands of the African market.
“When we look at the African continent, many of the countries that are importing commodities such as rice, which is in abundance in Malawi, are not getting this in Malawi but in countries beyond the Africa region. This thus calls for the need for the country to tap into such markets given our capacity,” he said.
Weighing in, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Trade Christina Chatama said it is important that the private sector takes attention on what the AfCFTA is and tap in the facility.
“We need to recognise the realities of the AfCFTA and tap into it without fear. According to the structure, AfCFTA allows for use of sensitive and exclusion of some protected products. Businesses must thus not see it as a destruction but an opportunity for them to be wise, plan and get available and nesseccary support for benefit from this, “she said.
Taking her turn, Old Mutual Malawi chief executive officer Edith Jiya observed that the country has through the AfCFTA an opportunity in various areas which have the potential to grow the economy especially if both public and private sector collaborate.
She said as institutional investors, the company is mobilising resources for medium and long term projects saying the company is syndicating some opportunities that are there in this Coivd-19 era to accelerate structural transformation.
NBS Bank chief executive officer Kwanele Ngwengwa also underscored the need for collaboration in tapping into the AfCFTA market saying banks have realised that most of their balance sheets are small therefore there is need to come together and achieve a common goal.
Malawi ratified the pact earlier this year, consenting to the market, where 54 African member states will be trading among each other with reduced or removed taxes on certain products.
The AfCFTA, which is set to create the biggest free trade area in the world with a market of more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of more than $2.5 trillion, is believed to constitute a significant milestone towards the realisation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 for the socio-economic transformation of the continent.