Ezulwini, Eswatini, May 05, 2023 (MCIT/ ECA SRO SA) – The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade of the Kingdom of Eswatini, in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) held a Validation Workshop for the Kingdom of Eswatini’s National AfCFTA Implementation Strategy on 4th May 2023.
The validation workshop was preceded by two build-up events; a sensitization presentation of the Draft Strategy on AfCFTA implementation to Cabinet Ministers and a sensitization workshop for Parliamentarians on 2nd and 3rd May 2023 respectively.
Officiating at the meeting, the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo emphasised Eswatini’s need to develop a practical and effective strategy and action plan for the private sector, including MSMEs, “to be better positioned to take advantage of the available market access opportunities presented by the AfCFTA.”
The Honourable Minister said that: “The AfCFTA Agreement opens up new market access opportunities for Eswatini to expand her intra-African trade beyond the traditional markets, such as SACU, SADC, COMESA and the EU. Accessing the wider African market to export its goods and services on duty free market access will bring about more revenues for our country’s development.”
He notes that for Eswatini, one of the objectives of the National Strategy is to leverage deeper integration within the framework of the AfCFTA to facilitate an increase of Eswatini’s trade and investment within the African continent.
Minister Khumalo: “It is also to support structural transformation and foster economic growth and sustainable development, as well as create employment opportunities for all emaSwati, particularly women and the youth, including people with disabilities with the ultimate aim of reducing poverty in the country.”
Speaking at the same event, Ms. Eunice Kamwendo, Director Economic Commission of Africa, Subregional Office for Southern Africa noted that, “The AfCFTA is also expected to reduce endemic poverty, inequality and unemployment in the region as marginalized groups, including women, youth, rural populations and MSMEs through inclusive and diversified trade opportunities”.
Ms Kamwendo: “The AfCFTA would aid Eswatini in reducing huge import bills and help to ameliorate the fiscal crisis; supply chain issues as experienced through the COVID-19 pandemic and still course correcting today; and food insecurities heightened by disasters.”
The United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Kingdom of Eswatini, George Wachira said “The AfCFTA presents a unique opportunity for Eswatini to enhance trade and investment, create jobs, and spur economic growth.”
Wachira added that the UN Family in Eswatini fully supports Eswatini's efforts to successfully implement the AfCFTA and are ready to share/listen to insights on how best they can work together to maximize its benefits.
Mr Wachira: “The National AfCFTA Implementation Strategy is a critical tool for Eswatini's efforts to implement the AfCFTA. The strategy aligns with Eswatini's national development agenda and the AfCFTA framework, which emphasizes the need to create an enabling environment for trade, enhance productivity, and promote regional integration.”
Giving the vote of thanks during the Parliamentarians Sensitization Workshop, Deputy Senate President, Ndumiso Mdluli said: "It is important to focus on the already established trading businesses as an easy or quick win, but it is also important to also focus on the sectors or groups that are responsible for keeping our economy growing (the MSMEs) which primarily translates to a focus on women and youth".
By signing and ratifying the AfCFTA Agreement, Eswatini has unlocked access to an extended and massive market which comprises the 55 Members of the AU, with a total population of 1.3 billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than US$3,4 trillion for both goods and services produced in the country.
Participants of the workshop, supported by the Global Affairs Canada (GAC), were drawn from members of parliament, senate, senior policymakers from the economic cluster ministries and other stakeholders from the public and private sectors and civil society to validate identified critical constraints and opportunities for growth and recommended actions through an action-oriented policy and investment programme for enhanced regional and intercontinental trade.
Mr. Bedson Nyoni
Senior Information Management Assistant
Economic Commission for Africa- Subregional Office for Southern Africa (ECA-SRO-SA)
Ms Bonakele Sarah Ndzinisa
Trade Information Officer
Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Trade
International Trade Department