Namibia is a few months away from chairing the African Union, and with implementation of the recently brokered continental free trade deal being a priority, international relations and cooperation minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has begun rallying private businesses to support this effort.
A flourishing free trade environment within the continent provides a major breakthrough towards the vision of a much integrated Africa and speaking to parliamentarians recently, the minister said the deal will remain a pipedream if the private sector is not at the fore front.
Nandi-Ndaitwah said the AU has teamed up with the Afro-Champions Initiative in order to further sensitise and engage the private sector on the business opportunities that come with the African Continental Free Trade Area.
With these sensitisation campaigns set to soon be carried out in Southern Africa, the minister wants private business back home to take part in these events.
The AU is pushing hard for this deal at the back of cynicism and criticism that the it will likely come out as another of the AU’s loud sounding nothings.
Nandi-Ndaitwah has not been discouraged however, “Namibia will remain firm in her belief for the unity and a fully integrated Africa.”
Meanwhile, latest published figures by a former head of the African Economic Forum shows that Nigeria, South Africa and Namibia have surpassed the 35% margin of intra-Africa trade.
Finance minister, Calle Schlettwein also applauded this: “Namibia is on its way to diversify and to trade better within Africa. I think it’s an important indicator that we are doing what we have promised to do, that is to trace with our neighbors.”
He sees the country leveraging growth and economic activity from this side.
From a business perspective, however, a free trade deal has a potential to cripple local industries, and it is one fear that sent the Nigerians protesting.
Further, most economies are yet to diversify, posing a risk to the deal in that economies will be trading more or less in the same raw material-based products.
Said Nandi-Ndaitwah, “Mr. Issoufou Mahamadou, President of the Republic of Niger, who provided a progress report on the negotiations on the African Continental Free Trade Area as assigned leaders on the matter, has encouraged Member States to speak with one voice and to engage external partners as one block, to ensure that Africa's interests are adequately defended to give the continent more leverage in discussions.”
So far, the AU Assembly has approved the AU budget for 2019, amounting to US$681.5 million which is in line with the continent's move to reduce dependency on partner funding and gradually move towards funding 100% of the Union's operational budget, 75% of the programme budget and 25% of peace support operations by 2021 with resources generated from the Continent.
“Namibia, in the person of the Hon. Minister of Finance, is a member of the Committee of Fifteen AU Finance Ministers that was established to provide an oversight role over the AU Budget.”
“The Ministerial Committee supported by a Technical Committee with the Ambassadors in Addis Ababa, have been working closely together to carefully scrutinize the AU budget, which has started to improve the budgeting process as well as the financial management of the Union.”
“AU budgeting process will continue to take into account the revenues and expenditure capacities of the AU Commission and Organs, with budget ceilings and clear programmes to ensure a realistic budget,” said the minister.