By Emmanuel Muma CTPD Researcher Trade and Development
COVID-19 has evidently posed both social and economic challenges for Zambia. The country’s growth reduced by – 2.8 % and the cost of living has increased due to the rising inflation. This has caused Government to raise its efforts to reinvigorate growth, reduce poverty and inequality, and attain sustainable economic development through the implementation of national economic recovery programme over the next four years (2020-2023).
As Zambia sets out to implement post Covid-19 economic recovery strategies ,the Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) would like to urge Government to expedite (albeit with caution) the implementation process of key trade agreements such as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. The AfCFTA offers opportunities that can help Zambia galvanise and stimulate post-pandemic economic recovery and foster economic growth in the medium to long term. This is based on the idea that AfCFTA will promote the creation of a larger and more integrated market whilst supporting diversification efforts and industrialization through promotion of intra- Africa trade. Intra-Africa trade is expected to expand by more than 80 percent and add to about US$60 billion to African exports. Whilst the commencement of AfCFTA on 1st January 2021 and the Zambia National Assembly approval for the ratification of AfCFTA “cheered up” a number of stakeholders , more work remains in the making before Zambia can fully trade and benefit under the terms of the agreement.
CTPD notes that Zambia is not immune to market risks such as import dumping and the competition expected to be created under the AfCFTA. Whereas competition adjustments are necessary to improve economic efficiency in the long run, it is central for Government through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry (MCTI) to implement the AfCFTA national implementation strategy in order to protect the interest of the local industries and offer business incentives to help them endure adjustments costs in the short term . This will ensure that the liberalization process remains in tandem with the countries’ development and recovery plans.
Further, CTPD is cognisant of provisions on trade remedies provided for at the continental level under the AfCFTA agreement on which member countries can ride on to help ease short-term adjustment shocks . For example, provisions on flexibility in the AfCFTA agreement, include annex 9 on trade remedies that allow governments to take remedial action against imports which cause injury to domestic industries.
However, our position as CTPD is that in spite of these transitional measures , Zambia should still be able to ride on its own national strategies to help leverage complementary AfCFTA measures by synergising the AfCFTA . It is also our expectation that Government takes the lead and responsibility of identifying new markets for Zambia’s exports in parts of Africa that the country does not currently export goods and services and make this information publicly available for the local industry and small-scale traders.
We further expect Government to enhance efforts towards advancing market infrastructure and the implementation of existing initiatives such as One Stop Border Post and online mechanisms for reporting and monitoring unfair trade practices and non-tariff barriers (NTBs) at key border posts like Kasumbalesa. This will help local traders conduct business in a conducive environment, increase the market share in existing parts of Africa where Zambia already exports its goods and services thus contributing to the country’s increased revenue collection from foreign exchange earnings. In addition, this will help to reduce the financing gap towards Zambia’s post-pandemic economic recovery and foreign debt servicing.