EIPA Reflects on the AfCFTA and its Impact on Eswatini this Africa Day

By Inside Biz

Africa Day is a chance for people to come together and celebrate the diversity of Africa. The African Union’s theme for 2023 is ‘accelerating the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area to bring greater prosperity to the continent’.

As a facilitator of trade and investment in Eswatini, The Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) plays a central role in facilitating the AfCFTA in Eswatini.

Although there is still much to be done across the continent to continue spearheading its successful implementation, the trade agreement between African states holds a powerful opportunity for the growth of export trade for the local economy.

EIPA Head of Trade Bongani Ntshangase speaks about the importance of AfCFTA as an enabling platform for development, especially in the area of trade and business growth, and also the significance it holds for Eswatini.

“Intra-African trade is a very important element that is not to be ignored especially when looking at trade between Eswatini, Africa, and the rest of the World. Africa has emerged as an attractive market for export-oriented companies and manufacturers across the world as demand for consumer and capital goods in Africa has been growing at a steady pace in the last few years.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, – Africa imported about 85% of its food from outside the continent, amounting to $35bn, and is expected to reach $110bn by 2025. Other top products that Africa is importing from the rest of the world are automobiles, computers and IT products, clothing and fashion accessories, pharmaceuticals, machinery, engineering products, and chemicals. These products are in high demand in the African continent for a number of reasons.”

Ntshangase adds “Eswatini is yet to tap into the top six import products in Africa and take full advantage of the opportunities presented by AfCFTA. Our neighbor South Africa on the other hand is one of our biggest trading partners with E22 billion of our local goods being sent to them each year. This relationship is also encouraged by our SACU membership which has benefitted us as it stimulates trade between Southern African countries.

Although we are also a member of COMESA, the AfCFTA has opened up new and exciting opportunities for enhanced trade with our existing trade partners, as well as new opportunities in West, North, and Central Africa which previously did not exist. Currently, Eswatini’s exports to these regions include chemicals, sugar, pulp, and wood products, textile, and processed food.”

Ntshangase says it is important for Eswatini to create enabling platforms for trade and for the AfCFTA to benefit the local business community and the economy at large. He notes with excitement about the return of the International Trade Fair this year.

“The International Trade Fair has consistently positioned Eswatini to African markets for decades and does so each year with more success. In the past few years, the trade fair has received visitors from a number of African countries which includes, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania.

The trade fair has also attracted visitors from as far as Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the USA. This year, applications will be open until 31 May 2023. Since this is the first event after the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were lifted, it is expected that turnout from both local, regional, and African visitors will be on the rise.”

Ntshangase continues, “For Eswatini, EIPA’s focus for the implementation of AfCFTA will be to continue creating links between markets and industries while effectively marketing the country’s potential to those with an interest in the various business avenues the country offers. The trade agreement gives us access to 1.3 billion consumers around the African continent; a wealth of opportunity for locally owned SMEs and large corporates.

The AfCFTA aims to not only consolidate African trading activity with the rest of the world but also to ease trade between nations on the continent, creating a single market. The agreement is also focused on facilitating further intra-African investment while also creating fertile markets to encourage international investors to enter African markets. This is a great opportunity for us to develop our African trade links and position Eswatini’s world-class products as enticing to a captive audience.”

The advent of online retail platforms such as BuyEswatini.com, which launched last year, puts the country in a prime position to successfully market its goods and services to consumers on the continent and beyond. BuyEswatini.com will continue to operate as a permanent virtual catalogue of goods and services offered by traders from all over Eswatini.

The site is intended to make local products accessible to all those beyond our borders at the click of a button, exposing local goods and services to multiple international markets. The site allows visitors to search for specific products per category, view pictures of the products, and compare prices, while also accessing the details of those selling the goods. More features will be added to BuyEswatini.com in the future to enhance its capability further.

Eswatini is a country that currently produces a number of high-quality, world-class goods and services which are fit and ready for export to the continent and international markets. This agreement will further boost the reach of these products and services positioning the country as a destination of choice for those interested in advancing economic development within the Kingdom’s borders.

The duty-free access to various countries in Africa, thanks to AfCFTA, will greatly complement Eswatini’s geographical positioning which already allows it the benefit of trade agreements under SADC, COMESA, and others. Coupled with good road infrastructure and favourable access to ports and rail networks, Eswatini is in a good position to fully utilize the opportunities offered by this agreement.

AfCFTA seeks to create one of the world’s biggest markets to compete with other localized markets such as China with a domestic market of 1.3 billion consumers, India with a domestic market of 1.4 billion consumers, Europe with a domestic market of 741 million consumers and the United States of America with a domestic market of 330 million consumers. This is a strong attempt by Africa to showcase homegrown products which will be sold within the continent at competitive prices by eliminating trade barriers such as customs duties and other logistical processes that were hindering trade within the continent.

Share With Friends