President Edgar Chagwa Lungu (left) during virtual address

President Edgar Lungu has called for the acceleration of the development of modern border infrastructure and port facilities to support the continent’s transition to a Free Trade Area from January 1, 2021.

The Head of State said expediting the implementation of the continental infrastructure programme is necessary for the successful implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. (ACFTA).

“As we proceed with opening of our borders, let us be mindful of the need to ensure that necessary accompanying facilities and procedures are in place to facilitate smooth trade amongst member states,” said President Lungu

President Lungu said this during the 13th Session of the African Union Extra Ordinary Virtual Summit on the operationalization of the ACFTA.

In a speech read on his behalf by Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Christopher Yaluma, President Lungu said Zambia has already shown commitment to continental trade and integration agenda by giving cabinet approval for ratification of the CFTA agreement and was now awaiting parliamentary ratification.

President Lungu said while the continent starts trading as a free trade area on January 1, 2021, there is need to ensure that the Free Trade Area does not disadvantage any country.

“Zambia will support all efforts aimed at ensuring that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area benefits all participating African Union Member States and that no single country is disadvantaged as a result of implementing the trade liberalization reforms,” said President Lungu.

He said Zambia is open for business and investment and is hopeful that she will receive favourable tariff offers from other countries to her tariff offer of 90 % non-sensitive list of products.

He urged African countries to ensure that strategies are put in place that will increase the value of intra-Africa trade and accelerate national economic development and transformation.

President Lungu stressed that Africa needs to identify value chains that can effectively develop within the continent and spur economic growth at all levels.

He paid tribute to African leaders, government officials from all the 55 AU member countries and other stakeholders for the tireless efforts that have seen the realization of the Continental Free Trade Area.

President Lungu acknowledged that Africa has been hard hit by the Covid pandemic that has severely affected intra Africa Trade due to massive lockdowns.

He regretted that the region experienced a slump as resources meant for investments have been diverted towards supporting the fight against the coronavirus pandemic with reduced incomes due to declined demand for some products.

And speaking earlier ,during the official opening of the 13th Extra Ordinary Session, AU Chairperson President Cyril Ramaphosa urged the AfCFTA to support and advance the empowerment of African women in improving access to women in trading in the new free trade order that the continent has adopted.

President Ramaphosa said there is a need to facilitate greater trade for women and remove trade tariffs and other barriers.

The 13th, AU Extra Ordinary Summit welcomed newly elected Presidents into the fold namely Lazarious Chakwera of Malawi, Burundi’s Evariste Ndayishimiye, Wavel Ramkalawan of Seychelles, and Bah Ndaw of Mali.

ACFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mene announced that 54 countries had signed the CFTA treaty and 34 had already deposited instruments of ratification and 41 countries had already submitted tariff offers.

Mr Mene said it is time Africa stopped depending on a colonial economic model and structured its own market that will address and meet the needs of the African continent.

He said the AfCFTA Secretariat will work towards finalizing the establishment of a US$1 billion trade financing facility for the continent’s small and medium traders that will be underwritten by African governments and other international cooperating partners.