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The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Wednesday urged the government of Zambia to expand major economic sectors so as to fully benefit from the imminent African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The call was made by ECA’s Economic Affairs Officer for southern Africa region, Oliver Maponga, who described expanding some of Zambia’s major economic sectors in order to complement the southern African country’s ambition to effectively benefit from the imminent continental free trade pact.

Maponga, who highlighted issues that required further consideration by the Zambian government and its development partners such as the ECA and the African Union (AU), emphasized the vital imperative of “strong preparation” ahead of the AfCFTA’s operationalization, the ECA said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Expanding the manufacturing capacity in Zambia, the harmonization and mutual recognition of standards and regulations, and developments in the infrastructure sector are crucial to support the flow of goods and services,” the statement quoted Maponga as saying.

ECA’s regional economic affairs officer was speaking in a recently held national consultative forum on the continental free trade pact, which was co-organized by the Zambian Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry in partnership with the AUC, the ECA and the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), it was noted.

This high-level forum mainly “marked the beginning of the wider stakeholder consultation process from May 27 to 31, which will feed into Zambia’s national implementation strategy for the AfCFTA,” according to the ECA.

According to the ECA, the Zambian government provided policy direction on the implementation of the AfCFTA and gathered sectoral views on the benefits and challenges presented by the AfCFTA.

The government also focused discussion on the sectors that provided Zambia “with the greatest comparative advantage and opportunities to leverage regional and continental value chains,” the statement read.

“Zambia is doing a lot to ensure we are ready to implement and participate in the AfCFTA,” an ECA statement quoted Zambia’s Commerce, Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary (PS), Kayula Siame.

“We are putting together a legal framework under the trade remedies bill to ensure Zambian industries are not disadvantaged under the AfCFTA,” Siame added.

Earlier this month, the AU had disclosed that the AfCFTA will enter into force on May 30.

The AfCFTA, which was signed by 44 African countries when it was launched in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, in March 2018, aspires to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, spur industrialization and create more jobs.

The continental free trade pact paves the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union, according to the AU.

The AfCFTA is regarded as the world’s largest free trade zone by the number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars.

Once operational, the African free trade accord is also projected to boost the level of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2020, according to the ECA. Enditem

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