The Sunday Mail
Prosper Ndlovu recently in NIAMEY, Niger
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has implored countries party to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to rally behind and fully embrace the agreement, saying successful economic transformation of the continent was hinged on regional integration.
In an interview with the media at the end of a closed-door meeting on the regional economy at the African Union Extraordinary Heads of State and Government Summit on Industrialisation and Economic Transformation in Niamey, Niger, on Friday, the President said it was high time regional integration was mainstreamed into domestic policy formulation.
Zimbabwe has been supportive of the historic AfCFTA Agreement, which came into force in January last year.
The country recently submitted its tariff offer to the secretariat, paving the way for its full participation.
The AfCFTA seeks to create a single integrated market of about 1,2 billion people from 54 African countries to maximise economic gains through intra-regional trade.
President Mnangagwa, who earlier attended the official opening session and briefly engaged with peers from across Africa, said success of the AfCFTA demands collective participation.
“The most important thing that Africa is currently focusing on is integration, where, in all the five regions in Africa, every effort is being done so that we develop together and assist each other,” he said.
“The regional integration methodology is based on member states coming on board in the Africa Free Trade Area. The guiding rules are that every member is expected to qualify and is being assisted to qualify.
“So, a conference like this one helps every member state know how much they need to do in order to be on stream in terms of industrialisation, because we have, as a continent, adopted a philosophy that no country or community must be left behind. We must embrace each other and move forward in our desire to industrialise Africa.”
As Zimbabwe pursues its Vision 2030 targets, President Mnangagwa said, the country was mindful of the importance of regional integration, hence it has modelled its policy framework along broader regional and global sustainable development ideals.
The President said this was critical to ensure the country is not left behind.
“Almost every country now has two levels of visions and the majority have Vision 2030, while others feel they must have a vision longer than 2030.
“But what is critically important for all member states is to try to match in terms of their pace of development with the rest of the African continent,” he said.
As part of efforts to rally all member states towards regional integration, he said, a model that identifies “champions” in key economic sectors has been taken on board to ensure countries contribute to the regional economy in line with their areas of comparative and competitive advantage.
“We have champions for agriculture, champions for infrastructure development and champions for energy.
“For instance, some are champions in terms of air transport. So, these champion member states would develop the roadmap in those areas,” he said.
“So, it will be easier for member states to come on board because there is a champion who spends time interrogating the methodology of achieving progress and modernisation in the particular sector as the champion on the African continent.”
He challenged young people to be on the forefront of economic transformation.
The Government, he added, has already set the tone through adoption of the heritage-based Education 5.0 philosophy, where science, technology and innovation must be the driving force in Zimbabwe’s re-industrialisation and modernisation drive.
President Mnangagwa said he was pleased that the country is already a step ahead of its peers in the region as it has started enjoying the fruits of the country’s innovation hubs.
“I was watching and realised that we are one step ahead of other nations, but here we are saying it is necessary that all African states must embrace science and technology for purposes of industrialisation,” he said.
“I had some Heads of States who discussed with me during lunch, trying to find out what it is when we say our education philosophy is 5.0, and so, I was busy explaining that.”
He also emphasised the importance of harnessing vast opportunities inherent in tapping into intellectual property rights.
He indicated that there was already ongoing debate on the issue at ministerial level, with the matter expected to be brought before Heads of State and Government in February next year.
Meanwhile, President Mnangagwa, who left the country on Thursday night, arrived back home yesterday morning and was welcomed at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport by Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda, service chiefs and senior Government officials.
This year’s summit was held under the theme “Industrialising Africa: Renewed Commitment Towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialisation and Economic Diversification”.
It drew participants from across the region.
The indaba was part of the Africa Industrialisation Week’s annual commemorative activities aimed at highlighting Africa’s renewed determination and commitment to regional industrialisation.