Zambia needs more time to study the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement-President Lungu

Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji Rwanda
Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji signing the declaration in Kigali, Rwanda Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji signing the declaration in Kigali, Rwanda

President Edgar Lungu says Zambia did not sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as the country still conducting internal negotiations on some protocols in the agreement.

Writing on his Facebook page, President Lungu said Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Malanji, signed the African Free Trade Area Declaration and not the Agreement because negotiations on some of the protocols of the agreement proposed by Zambia were still on going.

“Zambia had negotiated the protocol on Goods, and Services and the dispute settlement mechanism. The remaining protocols that included Protocol on Trade competition, protocol on Investment and the intellectual property were yet to be negotiated,” President Lungu said.

“You may wish to note that the signing of this declaration shows that Zambia stands with all other African Nations in its quest to improve intra Africa Trade. This agreement will have positive benefits to the Zambian people especially the Youth and Women,” he said.

On Wednesday, 44 African countries signed the agreement to launch the AfCFTA during an extraordinary summit of the AU in Kigali, Rwanda.

And Mr Malanji, said Zambia only signed the African Free Trade Area Declaration and not the agreement.

He however, said the signing of the declaration shows that Zambia stands with all other African countries in the quest to improve intra-Africa trade.

Meanwhile, Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister, Christopher Yaluma, said in the same statement that Zambia would not sign the protocol on the free movement of people as the country was not ready for it.

He said the government would only engage in treaties that had a positive bearing on Zambian people especially the youth and women.

Others who have not signed are South Africa and Nigeria including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.

The project needed a minimum of 22 countries signing up to get off the ground and Rwanda President Paul Kagame hailed the effort so far.

“What is at stake is the dignity and wellbeing of Africa’s farmers, workers and entrepre-neurs,” he said.

“Some countries have reservations and have not finalised their national consultations. But we shall have another summit in Mauritania in July where we expect countries with reservations to also sign,” Albert Muchanga, the AU commissioner for trade and industry, told AFP.

“They are still doing national-level consultations and so when they finish they will be able to come on board but we shall have another summit in Mauritania in July where we expect countries with reservations to also sign,” he said.

Bloomberg reported that President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, which together with South Africa makes up half of Africa’s gross domestic product, canceled his trip to Kigali, saying his government needs more time for input from local businesses before he can sign the pact.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also called off his travels to neighboring Rwanda, the Nairobi-based East African newspaper reported on Monday, according to Bloomberg.

“It would have been great if the two biggest economies on the continent, Nigeria and SA, had signed, but the most important is that the rest of the continent is sending a right message to these two biggest economies that we are moving ahead without you,” said Michael Kottoh, an analyst at Confidential Strategies in Ghana.

The decision to form the AfCFTA was adopted in January 2012 during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU while negotiations were launched by the AU in 2015.

The AfCFTA was aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesses and investments.

According to the AU, this will pave the way for the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African Customs Union.

The AfCFTA could create an Africa market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of 2.5 trillion dollars.

The agreement, after being signed, will be submitted for ratification by state parties before it can enter into force.