Namibia is in the process of developing a National Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Implementation Strategy and Action Plan. Once implemented, this strategy is expected to enable the country to identify key value addition and trade opportunities while attending to operational constraints to optimally benefit from the AfCFTA.
Minister of Industrialisation and Trade, Lucia Iipumbu, said the strategy will provide the private sector with important entry points into the regional markets as well as to alert the state to the required support to stakeholders. Iipumbu was speaking at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) on Friday.
“Other agreements that our private sector can benefit from are the Southern African Development Community-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement, which gives us duty-free and quota-free market access, as well as the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and SACU-European Free Trade Association Preferential Trade Agreements, which also provide for duty-free and quota-free market access on a selected number of products. The SACU Mozambique United Kingdom (UK) Economic Partnership Agreement is a rollover agreement necessitated by the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union,” Iipumbu outlined.
She added that government, through the industrialisation and trade ministry, is mandated to create a conducive business environment and has thus far carried out a series of activities and interventions in response to the prevailing Covid-19 situation.
Iipumbu noted that the main aim is to develop and sustain Namibia’s productive capacity to manufacture essential goods pivotal to the fight against the pandemic and to ensure the continuity of business operations. According to Iipumbu, the Industrial Upgrading and Modernisation Programme (IUMP) grant scheme is one of the programmes under the ministry, which has yielded great results since the pandemic struck. She said the scheme was designed to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of selected firms, focusing on the firm level diagnosis and implementation of supply-side and regional value chain interventions.
The IUMP’s industry grant scheme was set out to enhance Namibia’s level of industrialisation by targeting 11 growth sectors. The SADC Trade Related Facility (TRF) assisted IUMP with the awarding of industry grants to qualifying enterprises. This month, 45 companies were awarded assistance to the tune of approximately N$10 million. The minister stated that on regional and international levels, Namibia has ratified the AfCFTA and the SACU plus Mozambique –UK Economic Partnership Agreement.
“These ratifications bring along a wider market opportunity for the Namibian private sector. The AfCFTA is an engine for economic growth and industrialisation for sustainable development on the continent and brings to us a 1.3 billion market population,” stated Iipumbu.
The AfCFTA is envisaged to promote continental integration which will make Africa competitive by promoting productivity and enhancing competitiveness and value chains. Furthermore, the benefits would accrue to the producers, processors, exporters, importers, consumers, and the national economy overall. The private sector is a key stakeholder and beneficiary of the AfCFTA because businesses move goods and services and invest in-and-across borders. Meanwhile, governor of Bank of Namibia, Johannes !Gawaxab, said Namibia should use scarce policy leeway to consolidate recovery. He made these sentiments at the same occasion.
According to !Gawaxab, public policy support continues to be critical, particularly to vulnerable households and viable businesses, saying that both reorientation of spending and even more targeted support are essential.
“Financial market deepening in the form of greater credit availability and wider access to finance is a complementary policy priority, and Namibia should exploit AfCFTA opportunities, and preferential treatment of Namibian entities in local procurement,” !Gawaxab concluded.