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Home » Leveraging trade agreements for economic growth in the SADC region (Part 5)

Leveraging trade agreements for economic growth in the SADC region (Part 5)

By Eamonn Ryan

The Southern African Industrialisation Forum hosted a conference on 26–27 February 2024 with a range of panel discussions. This is part five of a six-part article.

A view of the audience.
A view of the audience. Supplied by: @Cold Link Africa

The following discussion is titled “Leveraging Trade Agreements for Economic Growth in the SADC Region”, with the following panel members and key stakeholders:

  • Peter Varndell: SADC Business Council Executive Secretary
  • Yavi Madurai: African Prosperity Fund Co-Founder
  • Dr Mustafa Sakr: AUDA-NEPAD Principal Programme Officer: Trade and Markets Unit
  • Ally Alexander Mwangolombe: SADC Secretariat Programme Officer – Customs Procedures
  • Rooma Narrainen: Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry Head of Advocacy

…continued from part four.

Summary of the main points and key takeaways from the conversation:

  • Introduction of policies and agreements: The discussion began with an acknowledgment of the various policies and agreements being implemented, such as industrialisation strategies and trade agreements like the AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area).
  • Creating a marketplace: There was a focus on the need to create a marketplace for businesses across the region, which involves providing information to businesses about how to operate in different countries, understanding supply and demand opportunities, and facilitating market access.
  • Implementation challenges: Despite the existence of agreements, challenges in implementation were highlighted, including issues with trade barriers, trade facilitation, corridor efficiency, and infrastructure development.
  • Role of new organisations: The conversation also touched upon the role of new organisations, like business councils, in aligning with government strategies and facilitating partnerships and investments to drive industrialisation forward.
  • Currency harmonisation: There was a question about the possibility of having a single currency for trade in Africa, to which the response indicated challenges due to the presence of multiple currencies but highlighted initiatives like the Pan African Payment and Settlement system to facilitate cross-border trade.
  • Guidance for companies: The importance of providing guidance and support to companies navigating trade within the AfCFTA framework was emphasised, including the establishment of export trade companies and national implementation committees.
  • Measuring progress: Concerns were raised about the need to track and measure progress resulting from forums and initiatives like the one being discussed, with a call for follow-up mechanisms to ensure that SMEs and businesses benefit tangibly from such gatherings.
  • Addressing illicit trade: Questions were posed regarding combating illicit trade, with an emphasis on the need for concerted efforts and effective mechanisms to address this challenge.

Continued in part six…