CTPD advises govt to maximise benefits from free trade area

By Staff Reporter

The Center for Trade Policy and Development says a robust industrial development drive is required for Zambia to maximize benefits from the continental free trade area.

In a statement, CTPD Executive Director Isaac Mwaipopo advised the Zambian government to ensure that the Multi facility Economic Zones (MFEZ) initiatives in general and in particular, the Lusaka South Multifacility Economic Zone is fully supported to realize the purpose of its establishment.

“The MFEZ is a strategic investment which if well executed will give Zambia a competitive edge as it engages in business with other countries on the continent under the continental free trade area,” he said.

Mwaipopo noted that at present, Zambia’s manufacturing sector/industrial base was weak and the country is a net importer of finished manufactured goods from other countries.

He noted with regret that very little manufacturing vis-a-vis value addition is made on Zambian products destined for the export market but instead Zambia is seen as a producer of raw materials which are usually bought cheaply by other countries.

He said as such, the idea to create the MFEZ as a conduit for spurring industrialization is a breath of fresh air for a resource rich country like Zambia.

“Zambia’s geographical position is also an added advantage in a business sense as it is linked to eight neighbours which with a well-established industrial base anchored on manufacturing, the country would increase its competitiveness on the world market and move away from a typical developing country model where natural resources are exported as raw materials, and consumer and capital goods are imported resulting in the domestic manufacturing sector being less-developed,” he said.

He added that in addition, the MFEZs were to create a platform for Zambia to achieve economic development by attracting significant domestic and foreign direct investment through a strengthened policy and legislative environment.

He said in a recent study conducted by CTPD which focused on assessing the performance `of the Multi Facility Economic Zones since they were set up, it was evident that the Zones were operating below their expected potential.

Mwaipopo has since called upon the Zambian government to step its commitment to making the MFEZ initiative work.

“The decision by Zambia to sign the protocol for the Africa Continental Free Trade Area as the country awaits its ratification is a commendable move,” he said.