By Qondile Ntiwane | 2019-06-12
Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo has met with his counterparts from Madagascar and Uganda respectively to solicit support in the Kingdom’s bid to host the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat.
The minister, who is back in the country, participated in the 8th Meeting of the African Union Ministers of Trade (8th AMOT), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia over the past weekend.
The two ministers of Madagascar and Uganda were strategically selected for their countries’ position and influence in regional integration.
Madagascar, on the one hand, is the current chairman of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Furthermore, Madagascar is also a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). During the eight AMOT, Madagascar was represented by Minister of Industry, Commerce and Crafts Landisoa Rakotomalala.
“Madagascar has still not ratified the AfCFTA and we have said to them in the event they decide to pull out of the bid, they should endorse the Kingdom of Eswatini. They have agreed in principle to support us in our lobbying efforts,” said Khumalo.
Uganda Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Amelia Kyambadde, on the other hand, chaired the meeting of the eighth AMOT. Uganda is also a member of COMESA and the East African Community (EAC). COMESA, SADC and the EAC constitute the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and they are recognised at the AU as the building block towards the establishment of the AfCFTA.
“The Tripartite covers half of the African continent and has 27 member states, thus receiving support from the Tripartite would really enhance our chances of winning this bid. One cannot overemphasise the hunger and the passion that we have demonstrated as a country towards winning this bid and we are, therefore, putting all efforts to ensure that we bring the Secretariat to Eswatini,” Minister Khumalo said.
He added that for EAC, in particular, the Kingdom specifically asked to be given preference in the unlikely event that Kenya pulls out of the bid.
Prior to the eighth AMOT, Minister Khumalo wrote to all African Ministers of Trade and enlisted their support for Eswatini in the AfCFTA host bid.
The objective of the eighth AMOT was to finalise outstanding issues that will facilitate the launch of the implementation phase of the AfCFTA, to be undertaken by the AU Extraordinary Summit to be held in Niamey, Niger on July 7, 2019.
It is during this Extraordinary Summit that the country to host the AfCFTA Secretariat will be officially announced. Eswatini is competing against Ghana, Madagascar, Egypt and Kenya in the bid. Ethiopia and Senegal pulled out of the race a few weeks ago.
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