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MBABANE – Hopes for Eswatini to tap into the multibillion African trade markets for goods and services continue to upscale.

This follows an approval for ratification agreement that establishes the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by the kingdom’s major trading partner, South Africa.  In 2017 only, South Africa imported 67 per cent of total Eswatini exports.

Total exports of goods by the kingdom, which could increase should the agreement come into force, stood at approximately E25.5 billion to the world according to International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Trade Map.

So far, 49 countries have signed the agreement including Eswatini. However, only Kenya, Ghana, Eswatini, Chad, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Guinea Conakry have deposited their instruments of ratification. The neighbouring republic, whose currency (Rand) is pegged to the  Lilangeni, will soon deposit their instruments of ratification.

The AfCFTA was launched during an extraordinary summit of African Union (AU) Heads of State and government, in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21. South Africa signed the agreement during the 31st ordinary session of the assembly of the AU, in Mauritania, on July 1.


Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade Siboniso Nkambule said they were glad that South Africa had welcomed the decision to ratify the agreement.
He said this effectively meant the country could tap into the agreement sooner should more countries choose to follow suit.
Asked whether the country was ready to maximise on the benefits that come with the agreement, he said: “It is still a work in progress but we are getting there.”    

Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies welcomed Parliament’s ratification of the agreement as reported by Engineering News yesterday. 
Engineering News reported that South Africa is expected to deposit its instrument of ratification during the thirty-second ordinary session of the assembly of the AU in February 2019. The AfCFTA will enter into force once 22 member States have deposited their instruments of ratification.

The AfCFTA includes 55 African countries and, once entered into force, will constitute the largest free trade area globally.
As a flagship project of the AU’s ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’, the AfCFTA aims to build an integrated market in Africa that will see a market of more than one-billion people, with a combined gross domestic product of about US$3.3-trillion (E46.2 trillion).

Engineering News reported that the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates the AfCFTA will increase intra-African trade from the current 10 per cent to 16 per cent to about 52 per cent by 2022.

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