February 27, 2024

SADC shares its economic priorities to EU in the context of the AfCFTA

Ms. Angele Makombo N'tumba, the Deputy Executive Secretary Responsible for Regional Integration for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on 22 February 2024 shared the economic opportunities available in the SADC region to the  European Union (EU) in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) during the annual EU Africa Regional Trade Seminar.

The EU Africa Trade Seminar was held in a hybrid format at the EU delegation offices in Gaborone, Botswana, with  other participants taking part from the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

The seminar was aimed at assessing the future trade policy direction of the EU with Africa, considering key factors such as the AfCFTA, the climate and food crisis, the growing significance of critical raw materials in EU-Africa relations, the impact of the EU Green Deal policy, the requirement for infrastructure value chains and connectivity for the continent’s development, and the evolution of economic partnership agreements in Africa.

During the seminar, Ms. Makombo N'tumba shared  SADC's economic priorities in the context of the AfCFTA, a central policy for the region and the continent's trade aspirations.

The AfCFTA is a flagship project of Agenda 2063, Africa's development framework, aimed at facilitating intra-African trade and enhancing its position in the global market by strengthening its unified voice and policy space in global trade negotiations.

Ms. Makombo N'tumba said the EU accounts for 28% of Africa's total trade and plays a crucial role in accelerating trade and regional economic integration. She emphasised that the AfCFTA serves as a catalyst for industrialisation and integration within the SADC region, and holds the key to unlocking economic potential for Africa, offering a pathway to unleash the continent full capabilities and drive transformative growth.

Ms. Makombo N'tumba presented the priorities of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP 2020-2030) and Vision 2050, which place emphasis on industrial development to harness economic potential, promote value addition and foster innovation and competitiveness in key sectors.

Furthermore, she acknowledged the underlying challenge faced by African nations in effectively implementing the AfCFTA. Therefore, she strongly advocated for the establishment of the SADC-AfCFTA consultative forum to enhance regional consultations and closely monitor coordinated progress. Additionally, she urged African countries to strive for regulatory harmonisation, considering the potential disparities in regulations across different Regional Economic Communities (RECs).

Her Excellency Ambassador Petra Pereyra, the Head of the EU Delegation to Botswana and representative to SADC, emphasised the strong collaborative partnership exhibited by SADC Member States in coordinating and supporting the EU in the implementation of various partnership initiatives which have so far resulted in revenue generation and employment opportunities. She acknowledged the harmonious and mutually beneficial relations between the African Union (AU) and EU, affirming that together they have fostered policy dialogues and cooperative partnerships in their shared aim to enhance economic cooperation and promote sustainable development across the continent.

Futhermore, she underscored EU's willingness to work with SADC and the African region to enhance trade and foster Free Trade Agreements, highlighting the existing EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) as an example of a trade investment mechanism that contributes to development within the SADC region and potential benefiary to the entire continent.

Ms. Cristina Miranda Gozalvez, Head of the Unit of relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in the office of the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission emphasised the significance of the seminar in shaping the EU trade policy for the African continent. She highlighted that the EU trade strategy outlines how it reinforces its engagement with the continent so as to support stability and prosperity in Africa through mutual consent. 

The seminar brought together all EU trade officials from EU Delegations across the African continent, along with representatives from the "Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific" unit of the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission. Ms. Makombo N'tumba was accompanied by Mr. Dhunraj Kassee, the Director for Industrial Development and Trade at the SADC Secretariat, among other senior officials from both sides.