Zambia is moving cautiously as it implements the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) aimed at creating a single African market for goods and services. Zambian President Edgar Lungu set the tone at the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) in Durban in South Africa, saying Zambia might consider a so-called Brexit from CFTA if it didn’t benefit the local economy.
The country’s Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PMRC) also weighed in on the opening of borders, saying Zambia must have specific measures to protect the agriculture sector from collapse. “Government needs to identify specific agricultural produce which will be exported and imported under the CFTA agreement,” PMRC said in its policy document on CFTA.
The free trade area, an initiative of the African Union (AU), will bring together 54 African countries with a combined population of more than one billion and a combined gross domestic product of more than US$3.4 trillion. This will pave the way for the creation of the Continental Customs Union in 2019, as provided for in the Abuja Treaty.
“Zambia can import products like cocoa and export sugar, cassava and other high value crops to ensure a balance between free trade and stability in the agriculture sector,” PMRC said.
The policy document resonated with local farmers who complained that cheap agricultural imports are pushing them out of business. This led to a short-lived ban on agricultural products. The ban was reversed because it conflicted with the Common Market for Southern and Eastern Africa (COMESA).