UN Calls for Ambition in AfCFTA at 21st Annual Bank of Namibia Symposium

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Dada Ahmed

From Addis Ababa (ECA) – The UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Ms. Vera Songwe,has stressed the need to position Namibia to reap the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area – Experience and lessons from other countries.

She stated at the Bank of Namibia 21st Annual Symposium on with the theme of “Positioning Namibia to reap the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area.”

Citing ECA analysis that indicates that Namibia will benefit positively from the AfCFTA, Songwe outlined opportunities for reaping benefits from the Agreement.

The UN top official said that being in SADC, the country had the advantage of being part of a trading bloc that Africa looked to for best practices.

She said “Furthermore, with SADC playing the most active trading role on the Continent, the AfCFTA offers opportunities to level the playing field across the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), including AMU/UMA in the north, EAC in the east, ECCAS in central Africa, ECOWAS in the west, and SADC in the south, in addition to others, such as CEN-SAD, COMESA, and IGAD.”

With Namibia poised to export textiles, food nd agro-industry sectors, among others, Songwe urged for more ambition, stressing the need for the country to move to higher-value, complex sectors and services where the country could seek comparative advantage.

She noted that Namibia’s logistics sector was a potential area for entry, providing this service to the entire Continent.

The country, she stressed, could leverage technology and undertake work to assess its national competitiveness strategy and strengthen its competitive advantage within the African regional value chain and supply chain.

Songwe noted that South Africa spent the most on R&D in Africa, adding that Namibia could benefit from such a regional neighbor.

The representative of the UN argued that while Namibia must continue to reap benefits from existing sectors, true benefits of the AfCFTA would come from turning to new job creating sectors,
including e-commerce and contributing to trade related services such as phytosanitary sanitary services for the sub region and beyond.

She, however, lauded the country for standing out as a leader in sanitary standards during the COVID-19 pandemic and said that as Africa opened up for trade, Namibia could provide services to the Continent in the area of standards-setting for export to the rest of the world.

The Reply,an online publication based in Nigeria gathered that the Symposium also elaborated on potential unintended consequences of trade.

Participants, however, acknowledged merits, particularly for a small and open economy such as Namibia’s, but which is highly integrated in SADC and the rest of the World, through its bilateral trade partners including China and the EU.

Songwe,who called upon Namibia to remain a champion of the AfCFTA, advocated the ratification of the Agreement to keep an eye on the service sectors that the country could develop in the context of industrialization on the Continent.

According to her,the country will, however, investment in human capital, including in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), inclusive of marginalized populations including women and youths.

On his part, Mr. Sen Pang, the UN Resident Coordinator, in his introduction of the ECA Executive Secretary, emphasized that “this is an issue of high relevance to the United Nations system in Namibia, and UN support to the Government of the Republic of Namibia.”

Source: ECA

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