The Center for Trade Policy and Development says for Zambia to maximize benefits from the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, the country will need a robust industrial development drive.
CTPD Executive Director Isaac Mwaipopo says the country may not need to go far in re-inventing the will as there is already a viable plan through the Multi facility Economic Zones initiative.
Mr. Mwaipopo said what the Zambian government now needs to do is to ensure that the MFEZ in general and in particular, the Lusaka South Multifacility Economic Zone is fully supported to realize the purpose of its establishment.
He said the MFEZ is a strategic investment which if well executed will give Zambia a competitive edge as it engages in business with other countries on the continent under the continental free trade area.
Mr. Mwaipopo noted that at present, Zambia’s manufacturing sector/industrial base is weak and the country is a net importer of finished manufactured goods from other countries.
He noted with regret that very little manufacturing vis-a-vis value addition is made on Zambian products destined for the export market but instead Zambia is seen as a producer of raw materials which are usually bought cheaply by other countries.
He said as such, the idea to create the MFEZ as a conduit for spurring industrialization is a breath of fresh air for a resource rich country like Zambia.
Mr. Mwaipopo said Zambia’s geographical position is also an added advantage in a business sense as it is linked to eight neighbors which with a well-established industrial base anchored on manufacturing, the country would increase its competitiveness on the world market and move away from a typical developing country model where natural resources are exported as raw materials, and consumer and capital goods are imported resulting in the domestic manufacturing sector being less-developed.
He added that in addition, the MFEZs were to create a platform for Zambia to achieve economic development by attracting significant domestic and foreign direct investment through a strengthened policy and legislative environment.
He said in a recent study conducted by CTPD which focused on assessing the performance `of the Multi Facility Economic Zones since they were set up, it was evident that the Zones were operating below their expected potential.
Mr. Mwaipopo has since called upon the Zambian government to step its commitment to making the MFEZ initiative work.
He said the decision by Zambia to sign the protocol for the Africa Continental Free Trade Area as the country awaits its ratification is a commendable move.