Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema says trade barriers between African countries are stifling the movement of goods to the extent that countries find it easier to buy African products through Europe.
On 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 ease trading between countries instead of using third parties.
“…how strange it is that sometimes we (Zambia) trade in goods from Kenya through Europe and vice versa. Really? Does that make sense? Absolutely not. That’s what we want to fix,” he told guests at State House during a state banquet hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“So, President Kenyatta, thank you for giving us this opportunity to advance that path walked by those who came before 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 dispatch from State House in Nairobi.
The State dinner was held to celebrate President Hichilema’s first trip to Kenya since he was elected last October. The leaders used the occasion to vow the opening of their borders to ‘fix’ what they called a series of trade barriers.
Both countries belong to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), a 21-member trading bloc that includes countries as diverse as Tunisia and eSwatini, but all of which belong to the African Union.
Since last year in March, African countries have been implementing the AfCFTA, which is seen as an ultimate solution to gradually eliminate trade barriers and make it easier to move goods between member states, and hopefully raise intra-African trade from the current 14 percent.
“I want to assure you that the Kenya Government will continue to work with its partners in Zambia and across the African continent to continuously remove barriers to trade, continue to improve the ease of doing business, continue to open our borders to our brothers and sisters across the continent,” the President Kenyatta said at the reception.
“In this context, we have agreed to address the prevailing bottlenecks, including addressing ourselves to a few tariff and non-tariff barriers that bar our people from enjoying the freedom of trade amongst themselves.”
Earlier, the two leaders and their top government officials had agreed to work together to remove barriers that hindered trade and investment between them. They also signed MoUs on trade, investment and agriculture.
“This visit (by President Hichilema) is nothing more than a visit to reinforce and enhance the cooperation between our two countries as we seek to deepen that partnership for the mutual benefit of our respective people,” President Kenyatta said.
Trade between Zambia and Kenya amounted to $39.16 million through products such as sugar, edible oils, textiles, toiletries, detergents, and crafts, among others.