By Peter Sinkamba
I understand that Zambia did not sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) Agreement because Government is still conducting consultations. I also understand that Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Malanji only signed the Declaration and not the Agreement. Additionally, I understand that Zambia has negotiated the Protocol on Goods and Services as well as the Dispute Settlement Mechanism, while the protocols on Trade Competition, Investment and Intellectual Property are yet to be negotiated.
Is the Executive participating in AfCTA legally or illegally? I ask this question because the Constitution of Zambia 2016, in Article 63(2)(e), provides that the National Assembly SHALL oversee the performance of executive functions by approving agreements and treaties before these are acceded to or ratified.
In view of the foregoing mandatory constitutional requirement, I wish to know whether the National Assembly has ever been consulted by the executive on the AfCTA. if so, I wish to know when the motion was tabled and approved by the National Assembly.
Further, I wish to know the position of the National Assembly on the Declaration and the Protocol on Goods and Services as well as the Dispute Settlement Mechanism, which has since been negotiated by the executive and concluded.
Additionally, I wish to know the position of the National Assembly on the Protocols on Trade Competition, Investment and Intellectual Property which are still being negotiated by the Executive.
If the National Assembly has never approved the AfCTA thing, and taken a position on the Declaration itself, and any protocols that form the Agreement, then Government is participating, and making commitments unconstitutionally. This means the Executive is acting illegally. According to Article 1(2), any act or omission that contravenes the Constitution is illegal.
My view is that the National Assembly must critically interrogate the AfCTA, largely from our export portfolio over a period of time, preferably the last five years. Below is a list showcasing 15 of Zambia’s top trading partners in terms of export sales. That is, countries that imported the most Zambian shipments by dollar value during 2017. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Zambian exports.
1. Switzerland: US$3.6 billion (44.6% of total Zambian exports)
2. China: $1.3 billion (16.3%)
3. Democratic Rep. Congo: $530.6 million (6.5%)
4. Singapore: $494.9 million (6.1%)
5. South Africa: $452.4 million (5.6%)
6. United Arab Emirates: $293.2 million (3.6%)
7. United Kingdom: $184.1 million (2.3%)
8. India: $176 million (2.2%)
9. Hong Kong: $145.3 million (1.8%)
10. Zimbabwe: $133.7 million (1.6%)
11. Malawi: $99.6 million (1.2%)
12. Tanzania: $89.1 million (1.1%)
13. Kenya: $72.3 million (0.9%)
14. Luxembourg: $52.1 million (0.6%)
15. Rwanda: $33.6 million (0.4%)
A high concentration (94.9%) of Zambian exports in 2017, were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Rwanda increased its import purchases from Zambia by the highest percentage from 2013 to 2017 with a 699.5% improvement. In second place was Hong Kong (up 621.4%) followed by Singapore (up 607.2%) and India (up 36.4%).
South Africa decreased its Zambian import purchases at the fastest pace down -60.2% over the 5-year period. The second-greatest reduction was -55.3% for the Democratic Republic of Congo, then -54.5% for Malawi and -51.5% for Zimbabwe.
In view of the foregoing statistics, what will be the value-addition of the AfCTA? What are our top 15 exports? How will the Agreement enhance our export potential? Does Africa really value our exports? If so why then is it only DRC, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda, that we export to in the top-15 bracket? What really do we export to these countries? And why is that apart from Rwanda, our exports elsewhere in Africa have decreased by over 50% in the last five years? Do we have anything else to export besides our traditional exports recorded we have relied upon in the last five years? If so, which ones are our potential export destinations?
The National Assembly needs to get answers from Executive to the above questions before the National Assembly approves that the Executive accents or ratifies the Declaration and Agreement.