We need to act, now

11 September 2019 | Columns

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force on 30 May, although not yet ratified by all African states, has been lauded and praised by political and business leaders alike. Quotes like “set to change Africa forever” and “it carries the promise of a much-rejuvenated Africa on a high economic growth path” have been noted.

While it is true that in this time of global trade wars, Africa is looking at economic and developmental integration, and this in itself makes it momentous, there are challenges.

We are not against intra-African trade and we are in full support of economic pan-Africanism.

But, all states were not created equal.

Namibia is having quite the time of it in trying to build key industries, in particular our dairy, broiler chicken, egg and pork production industries.

We suffer, not only at the hands of Brazil and the EU in terms of dumping, but South Africa bullies us as well, not only in SACU, but in our own courts of law.

Let's face it, tariff- and restriction-free imports from South Africa will shut us down. On the other hand, no imports from South Africa and many of our shelves, in almost all the varied types of businesses, will be empty. It's a bit of a catch-22.

What we do have, however, is a small window in this agreement, to list our 'sensitive' industries to ensure that these remain protected.

Most importantly, we need to resuscitate protection for our dairy industry, which is currently crippled and limping with negative growth, because it simply cannot compete with South Africa. As a member of SACU, we will negotiate tariffs and their phased reductions as a bloc, and we are going to have to make damn sure our voices are heard.

We are standing at a crossroads, where we can either fight for the survival, and dare we say growth, of the jobs in these sectors, or we will lose them. Are we joining hands yet?