By Timo Shihepo
PRETORIA – Executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, has urged SADC countries to increase trade among themselves as this would not just accelerate regional integration but Continental Free Trade Area, too.
Intra-SADC trade is currently low at 15-17%. Speaking at the 37th SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government here on Saturday, Songwe said as a way of increasing regional trade, the region must create regional value chains in which member states would trade on products or services that were at various stages of the value chain.
Songwe praised SADC saying that despite the region having low intra-trade, it was still leading the African pack when it comes to the progress of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
She said this did not mean that the region must rest on its laurels, however, adding that it must find ways to trade goods among itself.
She said this would accelerate SADC’s regional integration strategy and subsequently the Continental free Trade Area agreement.
“If anything, we must congratulate SADC for the infrastructure they have built. This is a catalyst for CFTA.”
Over the years, the ECA extended its support to SADC to develop its Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap, which was adopted by the 35th Summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, in April 2015.
The SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap seeks to engender a major economic and technological transformation at the national and regional levels within the context of deeper regional integration. It also aims at accelerating the growth momentum and enhancing the comparative and competitive advantage of the economies of the region.
“The ECA is ready to offer SADC region technical support to support infrastructure development and value chains. If the region is industrialised it means more benefit for its citizens as well as accelerating the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area, which will bring about many opportunities for all Africans,” said Songwe.