Shiimi promotes harmonized trade in Africa – Business

The Minister of Finance and Public Enterprises, Iipumbu Shiimi, called for the harmonization of trade between African countries.

This is to ensure the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

He spoke yesterday at the 30th meeting of the Eastern and Southern Africa Governing Council of the World Customs Organization (WCO) in Swakopmund.

The minister said without collaborative efforts, the AfCFTA agreement could end up being a “white elephant”.

“The AfCFTA is a very important milestone for us on the continent,” he said.

“When the free trade zone came into effect, there was celebration everywhere. But when will we see the tangible benefits? We have to put all these components together before we can see them.”

Shiimi highlighted the role of customs administrations in enabling these benefits.

The AfCFTA agreement presents significant opportunities for Namibia, offering preferential access to a market of 1.3 billion people across Africa, but to fully realize this potential, it is crucial to address the complexities of tariff reductions and non-tariff barriers, Shiimi emphasized.

He called on customs administrations to streamline processes, ensure compliance and foster a conducive trade environment.

Shiimi said trade within Africa remains disappointingly low and urged intensified efforts to improve trade between African nations.

The minister highlighted the importance of customs administrators in promoting trade on the continent, highlighting effective border management.

Shiimi mentioned Namibia’s collaboration with partners such as the Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations to launch a national strategy and implementation plan for the AfCFTA agreement.

He highlighted Namibia’s efforts to improve its systems, including the introduction of 24-hour border operations and the establishment of single border posts at key transit points in collaboration with Botswana.

Shiimi also emphasized the importance of capacity building, regional partnerships and compliance enforcement to foster sustainable development and combat transnational crimes such as narcotics trafficking and money laundering.

WCO President Edward Kieswetter told The Namibian that customs play a dual role in facilitating trade and protecting societies against illicit trade flows.

“The ultimate intention of the rules and policies we establish and the harmonization within customs is to serve society. It ensures that trade across our borders is well facilitated. Trading has become increasingly high risk,” he said.

He also addressed the importance of collaboration between customs authorities of different nations.

“The intention of the AfCFTA agreement is to ensure that the movement of goods and services produced in Africa flow for the benefit of all Africans. Customs administrations must be guardians of that risk,” said Kieswetter.

He recognized Namibia’s potential for innovation due to its relatively young customs authority.

He further praised the collaborative efforts between Namibia and South Africa and highlighted the synergy created by combining Namibia’s youthful energy with South Africa’s expertise.

One of the main topics discussed was the evolution of customs and trade challenges.

“We face challenges such as changes in the customs and trade environment and how customs administrations can keep pace with these changes to facilitate international trade and maintain supply chain security,” said WCO Secretary General Ian Saunders.

He said the success of the AfCFTA agreement largely depends on efficient customs procedures.

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