International relations and cooperation minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has exclusively disclosed that Namibia is set to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) once ongoing consultations are finished.
The minister’s words come as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is reportedly to touch ground today in the country to meet president Hage Geingob.
The international relations ministry had earlier reported that Mahamat will exchange views with Geingob and other Namibian authorities on key African Union priorities, including continental integration, peace and security and AU institutional reforms.
Speaking to The Villager yesterday however, Nandi-Ndaitwah said Mahamat’s interest will also be drawn to where Namibia’s position is as far as consultations to allow for the signing of the continental free trade deal are concerned.
The continent continues to face challenges as far as economic integration is concerned but after so much speculation, Nandi-Ndaitwah showed confidence that the consultations were mandatory towards an obvious entrance into the continental free trade deal.
“I believe that the chairperson may want to know how far we are with our internal consultations because as head of the commission he would want to see the instrument being signed by all member-states for it to be implemented because it’s critical for the economic integration of the continent especially when it comes to trade.”
The Villager also wanted to establish how close to reaching internal agreement Namibian officials are.
“It’s not a question of whether we are agreeing, we are going to sign. The only thing is that we do not want to sign for the sake of signing but we want the Namibians to understand what it means for us to sign particularly the business people because this is a trade agreement and business people and investors are playing a big role in the trade issues.”
“So the minister of industrialisation has already started with the internal consultations with the private sector to understand what it means. You know our president is ever-cautioning us and emphasising on implementation. And we come to realise that our implementation lags behind because we go into agreements which people have not bought in or understood,” she said.
The free trade deal is regarded as a one of the stepping stones towards a united continental front without barriers as envisioned in the Vision 2063.
The deal and the vision however have been ciriticised by some quarters as rather too ambitious and impractical given that member-states more or less produce the same unfinished goods, thus scuttling any possibilities of trade.
Critics have said that trade between Africans can only flourish if the continent makes a bold paradigm shift in trading in finished goods.