05 Aug 2015 15:00pm
WINDHOEK, 05 AUG (NAMPA) - Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Development, Immanuel Ngatjizeko says intra-Africa trade needs to be increased if development and poverty alleviation are to be achieved.
Ngatjizeko said this on Wednesday during the one-day public seminar on Namibia's participation at Regional and Continental Economic Integration Arrangements where the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement was signed.
The TFTA, which consists of 26 African countries comprising the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); the East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), was launched during the African Union (AU) summit held in South Africa on 15 June this year.
The TFTA agreement was signed during the third Tripartite Summit, which took place from 07 to 10 June 2015 in Egypt.
Ngatjizeko said on regional and continental level, the milestones achieved are important as they contribute towards the efforts of boosting intra-Africa trade, which stands at a mere 10 per cent.
The minister added that Namibia has adopted regional integration as a long-term political and economic strategy, thus the country took the lead by being one of the countries that signed the TFTA agreement, despite there being outstanding elements that are set to be concluded within a 12-month period before the agreement is operational.
Once operational, the agreement will provide additional market diversification, as it is expected to provide market access to around 600 million consumers.
It is therefore through initiatives such as this one that goods can move freely within the continent, creating business and investment opportunities leading to employment creation and economic growth of the continent, he said.
Ngatjizeko said the African continent is aware that regional integration, especially trade liberalisation, also comes with costs.
Experience also taught us that small countries especially tend to suffer as domestic industries may not be competitive enough to deal with competitive imports and other unfair trade practices, the minister said.
He noted that in order to address this concern, the agreement has built-in trade defence provisions that can be invoked to cushion any harm to the domestic industry that may be caused as a result of liberalisations.
The minister further stressed that market liberalisation alone without industrialisation and infrastructure development does not serve economic purposes, especially for countries like Namibia whose industrial production capacity is constrained and is not as competitive as that of other countries.
Ngatjizeko noted that it is for these reasons that the TFTA emphasises industrialisation and infrastructure development as strategic pillars of Free Trade Areas (FTAs).
Namibia in particular places industrialisation at the centre of its development strategy; hence the need to expand our industrial base is more important now; more than ever, he said.
He added that his ministry is ready to work with the private sector and SMEs to ensure that the industrial strategy yields results and Namibia's enjoyment in regional integration initiatives are informed by the national industrial policy and strategy.
Ngatjizeko stated that he expected the seminar to engage in information sharing and exchanging of views on how Namibia can make use of instruments such as the TFTA to optimally benefit the country's economic agenda.