Lawson Mabhena in ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Zimbabwe yesterday officially joined the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) despite outstanding issues “in the spirit of moving forward and our commitment to the principles that inspired the establishment of the AfCTA”, President Mnangagwa said.
In June last year, Government said it would fully implement the AfCFTA after 15 years, when the country is expected to have fully industrialised.
Zimbabwe is a member of G6 countries, a grouping that supports AfCFTA, but argues they face specific development challenges.
Other members are Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Sudan and Zambia.
In his address at a closed session of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) here yesterday, President Mnangagwa announced that Zimbabwe was now on board.
“I would equally like to thank President Issoufou, the champion of the AfCFTA, for his dedication and commitment to ensuring the implementation of the free trade area. Zimbabwe is cognisant that the AfCFTA is one of our Agenda 2063 flagship projects which has its success anchored on the commitment and political will of member states.
“We are also aware that challenges relating to implementation modalities will need to be addressed if we are to achieve the desired outcomes.
“Subsequently, however, in the spirit of moving forward and our commitment to the principles that inspired the establishment of the AfCTA, we are prepared to move on the basis of the agreed collective position,” the President said.
“Therefore, Zimbabwe is now on board.”
Earlier, President Mnangagwa had explained that Zimbabwe’s participation in the AfCFTA had been hampered by sanctions.
He was speaking to journalists after meeting President Abdelmadjid Tebboune of Algeria on the sidelines of the summit.
The AfCFTA, which is expected to boost intra-Africa trade, came into being on May 30 after it was ratified by 22 member countries including Zimbabwe, in what the AU believes will be a continent-wide market of 1,2 billion people worth US$2,5 trillion.
However, sanctions imposed on the country by the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) have seen Zimbabwe lose about US$98 billion since 2000, making it impossible for the country to fully benefit from markets created by the trade agreement given the myriad of challenges affecting local industries.
“Well, Zimbabwe is in a peculiar position. We are now in two decades of sanctions and they have not been removed. So, the priority issue now is to have those sanctions removed to allow our economy to recover and participate fully in the ambition of the continent to modernise and industrialise our countries,” President Mnangagwa said.
Asked how long he thought it would take for the country to be ready to fully participate in AfCFTA, the President said: “What is required is: when are they (sanctions) going to be removed? How long will they (Western countries) continue to have sanctions on us?
“Fortunately, the continent as well as our region are with us in the fight to have sanctions removed.”
Earlier in the day, the President attended a meeting of the G6 countries.
The closed meeting was also attended by President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, who is the champion of the AfCFTA.
On his meeting with President Tebboune, President Mnangagwa said the two countries have always enjoyed good relations, but he had to meet and share notes with his counterpart who assumed office late last year.
“We are going to continue to cooperate and resuscitate our Joint Commission between Zimbabwe and Algeria,” he said.
President Tebboune won the Algerian presidential election on December 12, 2019, and assumed office on December 19.