Mzuzu, (Malawi), 11 June 2021 (ECA) – Malawi will have access to immense opportunities in the post-COVID-19 environment despite the accompanying challenges the period will pose, says Stephen Karingi, Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
Speaking Friday at the end of a series of workshops to review and validate Malawi’s African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation strategy, Mr. Karingi said Malawi should be ready to exploit these opportunities in the wake of the severe impact the pandemic has had on the continent.
“In trying to address the challenges caused by the pandemic, there are significant trade and business opportunities. These opportunities are available to Malawi too,” he said.
The workshop followed two similar exercises in Blantyre and Lilongwe earlier in the week which gave stakeholders in the country an avenue to dialogue and secure ownership of the strategy.
Mr. Karingi also told Malawians worried that their country would become a dumping ground for goods from other countries, that the agreement had provisions that protect the Malawian market from unfair trade practices, including anti-dumping, countervailing and safeguard measures.
“Should Malawi face critical balance of payments difficulties and there is need to safeguard its external financial position, the agreement allows the country to adopt appropriate restrictive measures to protect its position,” he said.
For its part, the European Union (EU), a partner of the ECA in the process, says Malawi should take advantage of the exemption clauses in the AfCFTA agreement by promoting industrialization and value added sectors.
“The key will be to attract, protect and nurture foreign direct investment and industrialization to Malawi whilst at the same time profiting from a more open market for Africa’s population,” said Beatrice Neri on behalf of the EU.
Clement Kumbemba, Director of Trade in the Malawian Ministry of Trade, said the implementation strategy reviewed help Malawi to meaningfully benefit from the AfCFTA agreement in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
The meeting brought together stakeholders in the country, including government officials, the private sector operators, women and youth, and civil society organizations.
The ECA, through its African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), has been working with the AU to deepen Africa’s trade integration through the effective implementation of the agreement by supporting the AfCFTA ratification process through policy advocacy.
The ECA is also assisting the member-states to develop national strategies for the implementation of the AfCFTA in partnership with the AUC, International Trade Centre (ITC), and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) with the financial support of the EU.
The AfCFTA is the biggest free trade area in the world in terms of the number of countries in it. The bloc comprises a market of over 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$2.5 trillion. It has immense opportunities for increasing intra-regional trade, enhancing production, promoting economies of scale, creating jobs, raising incomes and improving the standard of living of the African people.
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