Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema says trade barriers between African countries hamper the movement of goods to the extent that countries find it easier to buy African products through Europe.
During his state visit to Kenya, President Hichilema said the continent must open its borders, implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to correct the anomaly, and facilitate trade between countries instead of using third parties.
“…how strange it is sometimes that we (Zambia) trade goods from Kenya through Europe and vice versa. For real? Does this make sense? Absolutely not. We want to fix that,” he told guests at the State House during a state banquet hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta /p>
“So, President Kenyatta, thank you for giving us this opportunity to move forward on the path that those before have gone to us. We know you are doing it for the people of Kenya, the people of Zambia and for Africa,” President Hichilema said, according to a statement from the State House in Nairobi.
The state dinner was held to celebrate President Hichilema’s first Travel to Kenya since his election last October. The leaders took the opportunity to pledge to open their borders in order to “fix” what they called a number of trade barriers.
Both countries belong to the Eastern-Southern Common Market Africa (Comesa), a 21-member trading bloc that includes countries as diverse as Tunisia and eSwatini, but all belong to the African Union.
Since March last year, African countries have implemented the AfCFTA, which serves as the ultimate Solution to gradually remove trade barriers and facilitate the movement of goods between member states and hopefully increase intra-African trade from the current 14 percent.
Read:Long-awaited launch of African Free Trade Area at six states delayed
“I would like to assure you that the Kenyan government continues to work with its partners in Zambia and across the African continent n will continue to open our borders to our brothers and sisters across the continent to continuously remove barriers to trade and further improve the ease of doing business,” said President Kenyatta at the reception.
“ In this context, we have agreed to address the existing bottlenecks, including addressing some tariff and non-tariff barriers that prevent us from enjoying the freedom of trade between each other.”
Previously, the two Leaders and their top officials agreed to work together to remove barriers that impeded trade and investment between them. They also signed memoranda of understanding on trade, investment and agriculture.
“This visit (by President Hichilema) is nothing more than a visit to strengthen and improve cooperation between our two countries, as we aspire to to deepen this partnership for the mutual benefit of our respective peoples,” said President Kenyatta.
Trade between Zambia and Kenya amounted to US$39.16 million through products such as sugar, cooking oils, textiles, among others , toiletries, detergents and handicrafts.