September 27, 2019: The Zambian ministry of commerce, trade, and industry in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), the Economic Commission for Africa's Office for Southern Africa (ECA-SA) and African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) held a validation workshop for Zambia's Strategy for the Implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement from September 25 - 26, 2019, in Lusaka.

Speaking at the validation meeting, the president of the Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI), Chabuka Kabwesha advised the government to expedite the implementation of the AfCFTA so that Zambia can start benefiting from the continental market.

Kabwesha said, "The private sector supports Zambia's planned ratification of the AfCFTA." Kabwesha noted that the services sector and sectoral linkages through the national and regional value chains will equally grow in scale and demand, more in particular the SMEs (small and medium enterprises). He thanked the government for the thorough consultations on the AfCFTA and the national implementation strategy.

Speaking at the same event, ECA regional director for Southern Africa, Said Adejumobi observed that with the fast pace with which the AfCFTA project is moving, there is a need to keep the momentum and for Zambia to ratify the AfCFTA. With Zambia's national implementation strategy in place and multi-stakeholder engagements ongoing, we hope that Zambia will reach a national consensus and the AfCFTA will be ratified." Meanwhile, he cautioned that the AfCFTA National Strategy should not be turned into 'another document' but should be a guiding compass that will ensure that Zambia becomes a significant player in the evolving regional economy and market of Africa.

Adejumobi noted the concerns around ratifying the AfCFTA stating that the AfCFTA has come with a lot of expectations, aspirations, and opportunities, but also some concerns and fears about the unknown - about whether we are ready. "Part of the concern is about the ability of local industries to compete within a liberalised regional market and about jobs associated with it and possible reduction in government revenue. However, fear is the enemy of progress. As Nelson Mandela once said, "courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it". We must overcome whatever perceived fears that we have and the national AfCFTA implementation strategy in Zambia is a mechanism to do precisely that - alleviate and overcome fear. The strategy is a product of thorough research and consultation and provides key and far-reaching recommendations on the way forward for Zambia."

The two-day validation meeting was aimed at reviewing the draft national AfCFTA strategy and implementation plan, its objectives, proposed actions and the implementation framework to address any gaps, correct any misrepresentations and align any inconsistencies. Thereby providing recommendations to improve the national strategy and implementation framework.

The private sector, civil society, academia and associations of women in business and government institutions, umbrella private sector business organizations among others were in attendance.

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