The new African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) is a potential game changer for many economies in the region, but there is need for governments to fight the urge to protect the broader economic vision from threats of narrow national interests.
Start of trading under the AfCFTA Agreement to create a US$3 trillion market began on January 1, 2021.
As at February 5, 2021, 36 countries had deposited their instruments of ratification, namely: Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Niger, Chad, Eswatini, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Namibia, South Africa, Congo, Rep., Djibouti, Mauritania, Uganda, Senegal, Togo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Rep., Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, São Tomé & Príncipe, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Mauritius, Central African Republic, Angola, Lesotho, Tunisia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Malawi and Zambia.
However, it’s not yet smooth sailing.
Recently, Zambian fuel transporters have been pushing for authorities in that country to limit Zimbabwean fuel transporters from working with fuel companies and dealers in that country.
Zambian fuel transporters are not happy as they feel their government is not prioritising them in the transportation of imported fuel, and in recent days parked their vehicles to demand for the fulfilment of that country’s 50 percent volume allocation policy.
“Zambia today has got capacity to transport its own fuel . . . Why should Zimbabweans be crossing to Zambia to bring fuel here when we have the capacity to do so,” said a representative of the agitated transporters.
But Zambian officials have since moved in to end the blockade.
Xinhua reports that tanker drivers have since resumed operations after the intervention by Zambian President Edgar Lungu who directed for the full implementation of the 50 percent fuel volume allocation.
Zimbabwean drivers are happy with the development.
“It is only through regional integration that we can enhance our standards of living as Africans.
“Concerted efforts are needed for every SADC country to achieve economic development, peace and security, and growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people.
“We are a family and we are happy that trucks have started moving into Lusaka and are offloading as we speak and this brings joy to the ordinary person in Zambia,” said a Zimbabwean fuel transporter who declined to be named.
Although the issue seems to have been resolved, questions now remain if the incident was just a once-off, or could be sign of challenges to come for the AfCFTA.
The Institute of Security Studies (ISS) has said if the AfCFTA is going to be sustainable, African leaders need to look beyond political expediency.
“Forging ahead with AfCFTA will require huge trade-offs from political leaders. They will need to think beyond short-term election cycles, and cede sovereignty in policy-making.
“Aligning continental objectives with a domestic agenda won’t be easy, especially as global populism and nationalism is rising, and protectionist approaches are being advocated,” said the Institute.
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