Namibia’s member of parliament and deputy Chairperson of the Pan-African Parliament Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration McHenry Vennani underscored the critical need to unlock and unbundle the barriers, such as infrastructure, that impede trade between African states.
Venaani was speaking during a workshop on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at the ongoing Pan-African Parliament in South Africa.
Recognising the enormous potential for intra-African trade, the workshop was aimed at devising strategies to accelerate continental free trade.
“If we do not address proper intra-trade within the countries, how do we think we will be able to perform on the African continent if a country is noteffectively trading within itself,” said Venaani.
He said trade constraints in African countries must be unbundled and unlocked and that infrastructure must be improved.
With a weak infrastructure, Africa cannot efficiently trade within itself, he pointed out.
“[We have] rail networks that do not exist, dilapidated ports. So how do we make sure as parliamentarians that we devolve enough resources that go towards improving infrastructure for us to be able to trade with one another,” he said.
Hee stated parliamentarians must ensure that agreements inked between African governments and foreign companies are tracked by African leaders.
“Parliamentarians must be able to monitor the value of trade deals that are signed with multi-nationals for us to make sure that the African populace benefits from it. For us to effectively implement a working African continental free trade area, we must unbundle the political question.”
Venaai suggested that an approach that African parliaments should take is to help the African people understand and conceptualise what the AfCFTA is.
He emphasised that Africans have no idea what African politicians and trade actors are talking about when it comes to the agreement.
As a result, there is a need to educate on what the African continent wants to achieve by building what Venaani refers to as a “track” to track how the people understands what the leaders say.
“The information that we have as political actors and trade actors is only known by us and for as long as there is no understanding from the population that we serve, there is a disconnection,”he said.
Venaani also stated that Africa must address the issue of product identity and define what products it wants Africans to trade with.
“What are the products that the ordinary SMEs need to have for them to be able to deal with the African community?” he asked.
“For as long as we are giving major procurement tenders to Chinese companies on the African continent, how do we empower African businesses in Africa for them to be able to compete on the African continent if every procurement that we have is built by Chinese and other international companies?”.
Venaani argued that lawmakers only discuss this issue on occasion, such as in the Pan-African Parliament, and not in their national chambers.
He emphasised that he had never heard of an AfCFTA workshop in a community, and that parliamentarians must begin with the issue of information mobilisation.
He went on to say that it is necessary to develop a variety of policies and measures to address the individual demands of various types of countries and national actors to make the AfCFTA inclusive and mutually beneficial for all.
He stated that these policies could be built on two pillars, namely the creation of an adjustment and compensation for those countries that will negatively be affected by the structural and regulatory changes introduced by the agreement and the promotion of capacity building programmes in order to ensure that African countries and stakeholders are fully aware of African free trade areas rules and mechanisms.