WINDHOEK - With the recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Zambian Minister of Tourism and Arts, Ronald Kaoma Chitotela, says the time has come for African countries to collectively implement various regional policies enabling the free movement of people.
The AfCFTA is a free trade area, among 54 of the 55 African Union (AU) nations.
The free trade area is the largest in the world in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organsiation. The agreement was brokered by the AU and was signed by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018.
Namibia also signed the trade agreement worth over US$2 trillion, which requires members to remove tariffs from 90 percent of goods to allow free access to commodities, goods and services across the continent.
The Zambian minister made the remarks last week when he was speaking during the Africa Tourism Leadership Forum in Durban on the topic titled “The strategic imperatives of visa openness for growth in intra-African travel and tourism development.”
He said Africa has for some time been deliberating on how to facilitate the free movement of people, goods and services.
In fact, he noted the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region agreed to, and adopted the Sadc Protocol on Facilitation of the Movement of Persons of 2005 which sought to fulfil the objectives of the Sadc Treaty, which requires the region to develop policies aimed at the progressive elimination of obstacles to the free movement of capital and labour, goods and services and of the people of the region.
According to him, with the signing of the AfCFTA the time has come for African nations to collectively implement various regional policies enabling the free movement of people.
While each region will have specific policies and programmes, he suggested these must be ultimately developed against the background of the continental objectives in this area.
Chitotela mentioned that the free trade regime will be driven by other enabling policies like the free movement of people, goods and services.
This, accepted in principle, Chitotela noted, is also cognisant of some of the risks involved in the unchecked movement of people, goods and services.
“Ironically, while the continent has become more open due to globalisation, it has equally become more restrictive due to contemporary challenges like illegal trafficking of goods and people, insecurity which is driven by terrorism and acts of extremism,” Chitotela highlighted.
In talking about the free movement of people, goods and services, he said, Africans have to be realistic and honest about the challenges.
He thus called on African countries to develop responsive and legally sound policies which can be implemented in a coherent and cohesive manner.
He said in as far as Zambia is concerned, while they still have work to do in this area, the country has some lessons to share as well.
“We are positioned in a fairly favourable position with respect to our regional relationships. As a member of both the Sadc and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Free Trade Areas (FTAs), Zambia is one of the few countries whose exports enjoy duty free access to African trading partners both to its north and south,” he said.
He therefore noted that Zambia can develop and implement polices with partners and to support its trade and other relationships in line with its national and regional