Windhoek-Any member state that introduces measures that may negatively affect trade will frustrate the plans and dreams of African heads of state and government to foster continental market integration.
These were the words of Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development Immanuel Ngatjizeko, when he responded the National Assembly last week to UDF MP Apius Auchab, who wanted to know how trade restrictions of one country can divert the collective plans of African governments to create an integrated market on the continent.
The minister said any existing barriers to trade will continue to limit the growth of trade throughout all African regional groupings. “This cannot be condoned and there are structures through which such actions could be addressed and resolved amicably,” he said.
He said by imposing unnecessary costs on exporters such barriers raise prices for consumers, undermine the predictability of the trade regime and reduce investment in the region.
He further said African member states that impose non-tariff and regulatory barriers raise transaction costs and limit the movement of goods, services, people and capital across borders throughout Africa.
“Effective continental market integration is more than removing tariffs; it is about addressing on the ground constraints that paralyse the daily operations of ordinary producers and traders,’ he noted.
In addition, he said to deliver integrated markets that attract investment in agro-processing, manufacturing and new services activities, countries must work together to move beyond tariff reduction toward a more holistic of deeper regional integration.
Auchab also wanted know what measures the ministry has taken to ensure that what happened in Zambia does happen again, because it will harm intra-Africa trade and make genuine regional, continental economic integration difficult.
The minister said the truck-impounding saga was rooted especially in the fact that Zambia is home to numerous exotic tree species, including the Mukula tree. He clarified that the Mukulu timber, which caused the impounding of Namibian trucks recently, was prohibited from being harvested in Zambia, but not in the DRC.
The Namibia-registered trucks were carrying timber from the DRC with valid documentation.
He said their cargo was inspected and sealed by Zambian customs officials at Kasumbalesa border post between DRC and Zambia and found to be valid and authentic. Therefore, the minister maintained it was important to take note that Namibia is a member of SADC and had acceded to the SADC Trade Protocol.
He said his ministry is the custodian of that protocol, which ensures the provisions of the SADC Protocol of Trade are adhered to.
One of the critical provisions of the protocol – Article 14 – involves trade facilitation and is aimed at facilitating the movement of goods in the region through simplification and harmonisation of documentation and procedures, as well as regulations relating to technical conditions applicable to means of transport other than porters and pack animals, which may be accepted for transport of goods within the community under the customs seal.
Article 15 of the same protocol on the provision for goods from SADC member states says such goods shall enjoy freedom of transit within the SADC community and shall only be subject to the payment of the normal rates for services rendered.
‘The impounding of Namibian trucks therefore defeats the objective of Article 15,” he said.
he said the Trade Ministry mandated the Walvis Bay Corridor Group to accelerate development along what had traditionally been transport corridors into economic development corridors through the Spatial Development Initiatives programme, as well as to promote trade within the SADC region and beyond.
Additionally, he said the parties to the agreement – the DRC, Namibia and Zambia – require that any measures to be implemented that will negatively affect the operation of the corridor of all parties be notified, and prior consultations shall have to be undertaken, which he understands that Zambia did not do.
He promised that as custodian of international trade arrangements, the Trade Ministry would continue to engage regional member states through negotiation forums to facilitate intra-Africa trade and regional and continental integration.