- Botswana finally comes to the party and joins massive trading bloc
- Kgafela is banking on the private sector to advance Botswana’s intra-Africa trade
- Says AcCFTA has specific provisions for women and the youth in SMMEs
The Minister of Trade and Investment (MITI), Mmusi Kgafela, added his name to the list of Botswana’s economic revolutionaries when the country ratified African Continental Free Trade Area (AfcFTA) agreement during the recent summit of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Although the signature was appended by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, the apex moment belonged to Minister Kgafela as the head of the department of state that has led the drive to make Botswana an integral part of one of the world’s largest trading blocs. Briefing the media on the landmark achievement recently, Kgafela said in preparation for ratification of AcFTA, his ministry conducted a sensitisation campaign in the private sector and the general public to explain potential benefits expected to flow from the Agreement.
“Numerous national awareness workshops have been held for customs officials as the people who will administer the entry and exit of goods to ensure that qualifying products benefit from concessions under the Agreement,” he said Kgafela. “The ministry, with the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, is developing a strategy that will facilitate leveraging the benefits under AfCFTA. The strategy will identify gaps and interventions needed for the business community to utilise and benefit from the Agreement.”
He added that in the perspective of AfCFTA, the business community encompasses SMMES because they represent about 80 percent of Africa’s businesses and are responsible for more than 80 percent of Africa’s employment and 50 percent of its GDP. For that reason, the minister noted, ensuring participation of women and the youth will be necessary for increased employment, poverty reduction and a generally improved welfare of citizens of the continent because women and the youth are prevalent in the SMME sector across Africa.
As a matter of fact, he explained, AfcFTA has a specific Provision/Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade. “The Protocol is expected to address specific constraints and barriers faced by women when trading on the continent,” Minister Kgafela said. “It will create an environment that allows women to utilise AfcFTA by accessing wider markets (while) improving competitiveness in regional value chains.” Regarding laws to protect local businesses against competition from foreign companies, he said Botswana has been able to nurture its emerging industries through Infant Industry Protection under the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).
Through such SACU provisions, the government has been able to impose additional tariffs on imports of products that are similar to those made by identified infant industries in Botswana. “Similar provisions are available under this Agreement,” said the trade and industry minister. “To further protect our industries from competition from more advanced industries, the Agreement provides for Trade Remedies which will be used to address any disruption to businesses as a result of sudden surges in imports.” Kgafela noted that AfcFTA also has a provision to discourage anti-competitive behaviour by imposing additional customs and anti-dumping duties.