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Ayorkor Botchwey Calls For Enhanced Trade Among African Countries

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has called for enhanced trade among African countries for accelerated development.

“It is our responsibility as leaders in government, industry, finance, small-scale enterprises (SMEs), startups, regulation and civil society to harness our collective resources and capabilities towards an efficient market in trade and services, job creation and prosperity for all Africans,” she said.

The minister made the call at the opening of the sixth Swakopmund International Trade Expo (SWAiTEX) in Namibia. The theme for the expo is: "Efficient connectivity and resource beneficiation for sustainable growth in Africa”.

In attendance were business leaders in Namibia and two southern African Presidents and members of their Cabinets.

The event in Swakopmund, 360 kilometres west of the capital, Windhoek, was attended by Presidents Nangolo Mbumba of Namibia and Mogkweetsi Masisi of Botswana, whose delegation included his Vice-President, Slumber Tsogwane.

AfCFTA
"The African Continental Free Trade Area is the beacon of hope for Africa's economic resurgence,” the minister, who quoted the South African AfCFTA Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene, said, adding “we agree wholeheartedly”.

Resplendent in an African-print attire and a hand-woven kente shawl over her shoulders, Ms Botchwey, a former Deputy Trade Minister, further urged the people to make “African products our preferred products”, while building partnerships regionally and across the continent to service the common market.

As a free trade area, connecting 1.3 billion people across 55 countries, with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion, she said AfCFTA, which is headquartered in Ghana, promises immense new markets, accelerated industrialisation and fresh investment opportunities.

Ms Botchwey acknowledged that African economies were currently facing challenging headwinds, including cascading impacts on debt, energy, food security, cost of living, unemployment and climate crisis.

She, however, said that “the transformative potential of the AfCFTA show that we can overcome our challenges and build resilient economies”. She commended Namibia for joining an AfCFTA-Guided Trade Initiative with Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Cameroun. 

Initiative
The Guided Trade Initiative was established in 2022 as an interim measure to begin trade among interested parties after meeting the minimum threshold for trading under the AfCFTA.

It is designed to test the agreement’s capacity to function as envisaged, and identify and fix imperfections. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed in April 2023 between the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre and the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board to facilitate investment and trade flows between the two countries under the umbrella of AfCFTA.

Ms Botchwey, a candidate for Commonwealth Secretary-General, has made trade and investment a major plank of her vision. Namibia, Botswana and Ghana are among Africa’s 21 Commonwealth countries. There are 56 of them altogether.

She said developing countries with an overlapping membership in multilateral institutions must work together consciously and strategically to change their marginalised status in global trade and governance.