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ZIMBABWE should take advantage of a bigger African market unlocked by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to boost economic growth, the bloc’s secretary-general Wamkel Mene said yesterday.

In his address to the ZimTrade exporters conference, Mene said AfCFTA would increase intra-Africa trade significantly and unlock opportunities for domestic firms.

“The Africa Continental Free Trade Area that started trading in January 2021 offers significant trading opportunities to Zimbabwe to further grow its exports, to boost its economic growth and transformation,” Mene said.

“I say this because the export potential for intra-Africa trade is quite significant and is estimated to be close to US$85 billion.

“This is currently projected to raise the current level of intra-Africa trade to more than US$230 billion, potentially accounting for more than 22% of total Africa trade.

“It is, therefore, time for our private sector in Africa, not just in Zimbabwe, to explore trade and investment opportunities that are presented by AfCFTA both in the area of trading goods and trading services. With a generous endowment of natural resources, existing stock of public infrastructure and a comparatively skilled labour force Zimbabwe has an unprecedented opportunity to join existing supply chains in Africa through the AfCFTA,” he added.

Mene spoke as the Zimbabwean CEOs last week urged domestic industries to mount aggressive strategies towards unlocking big opportunities brought by AfCFTA, a US$3,2 trillion market that is expected to reshape the region’s economies.

In a note released ahead of a major conference later this month, the CEO Africa Roundtable (CEOART) said AfCFTA had potential to propel re-industrialisation in a huge African market stretching to 1,2 billion people.

“This edition of the roundtable comes are a time when the AfCFTA has entered into force,” CEOART said.

“The AfCFTA aims to create a continental market for goods and services, and free movement of businesspersons and investments.

“It is expected to boost intra-Africa trade through harmonisation and co-ordination of trade liberalisation and facilitation instruments across the regional economic communities and across Africa in general.

“The AfCFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise levels through exploitation of opportunities for scaling up production, continental market access and better allocation of resources.

“It is critically important that private sector takes a leading role in actualising the AfCFTA under the broader agenda of achieving agenda 2063,” said CEOART.

The AfCFTA is the largest trade bloc worldwide with a market potential for goods and services of 1,2 billion people, according to the African Development Bank.

An important part of the bloc is the expected elimination of tariffs in 90% of goods originating from the continent.

The AfCFTA agreement revolves around trade liberalisation through tariff and non-tariff barrier reductions to drastically increase intra-continental trade.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has predicted that the AfCFTA will raise intra-African trade by 15 to 25%, or US$50 billion to US$70 billion by 2040 compared to an Africa without the bloc.

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