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EZULWINI – The AfCFTA agreement has opened up more market opportunities for local businesses to explore.

Sectors such as agriculture, textiles and apparel and transport stand to benefit the most from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement with Eswatini. One of the frequently asked questions by local businesses is how to access the market, which the Eswatini Investment and Trade Promotion (EIPA) said was possible through them. EIPA said they have created a platform that would assist local businesses in accessing international markets in line with the trade agreements Eswatini has. This means that if a business owner or investor is interested in penetrating the international market, they should familiarise themselves with EIPA.


Another method proven to be imperative in understanding the international market was affiliation with either Business Eswatini (BE) or FESBEC. Yesterday there was private sector training on market analysis using the African trade observatory at the Royal Villas, and guests included Business Eswatini Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nathi Dlamini, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, as well as COMESA. In his remarks, BE CEO Nathi Dlamini said the benefits of the training for smaller businesses were that they would gain market insights on which markets to explore and the products they could potentially venture into. He said current exporters from medium enterprises would obtain market insights on the diversification possibilities of both their markets and products within the African region and beyond.

“We hope that the delegates here will leverage this resourceful training in order to gain new insights that will add value to their businesses. By so doing, it is our hope that as the private sector, we can contribute to advancing the country’s economic development agenda by exploiting our export potential, which, in turn, will create the jobs desperately needed by this country as well as national wealth,” he added. The CEO also mentioned that the training came at a critical juncture for Eswatini businesses, where the AfCFTA was gaining momentum.
Under Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Cebile Nhlabatsi, added that the objective of the training was to empower businesses with the key market information they require to identify and compare emerging opportunities across the African continent.


She said the African Trade Observatory had produced modules that provided a range of real-time indicators on trade flows, utilisation of AfCFTA tariff preferences, tax revenues, clearance times, and trade simulations, thereby facilitating the evaluation of the implementation process and impact of the AfCFTA. “Our gratitude goes to the EU for availing financial support through the COMESA Secretariat’s Regional Enterprise Competitiveness and Access to Markets Programme (RECAMP), funded by the 11th European Development Fund (EDF),” she said. The under secretary added the agreement establishing AfCFTA was signed on the March 21, 2018 during the Summit of Heads of State and Government, which was held in Kigali, Rwanda. She said Eswatini ratified the agreement during the same year, which qualifies the country to benefit from any preferential market access within the AfCFTA.  
“The AfCFTA agreement came into force on May 30, 2019, with the start of trading to commence January 2021; however, no trade has as yet taken place under the AfCFTA regime. As at March 2023, 47 of the 54 signatories to the agreement (81.5 per cent) have deposited their instruments of ratification,” she said.

Rolled out

Nhlabatsi also mentioned that it was further rolled out by the African Union, the European Union (EU) Commission and the International Trade Centre (ITC) at an African Union Summit on the December 5, 2020. She said, during its launch, the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Ambassador Albert Muchanga said: “Trade information is vital to the promotion of trade in Africa,” and they fully concur with this statement in the sense that, without the relevant required information, it becomes very difficult and cumbersome for a trader to get all the required information at the soonest possible time. Business Development and Participants Manager DFI Programme Hopewell Musundire added that they aimed at training and making more information available for the public. He said it was imperative that businesses understand how they are supposed to trade with other nations and which sector to explore.

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