Africa-Press – Lesotho. The Ministry of Trade and Industry held a one day workshop for journalists on Monday, to review the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement which the country had recently ratified.
The workshop was intended to sensitize the media on how to report issues of free trade and continuously spread the message on the benefits that are attached to the agreement.
As explained by the Ministry of Trade and Industry Chief Trade Development Officer Motheba Malibeng, the purpose of the workshop was to train media as the main stakeholder to share information
with the public about AfCFTA agreement so that it would be easier for Basotho to produce goods and services that boost the economy and also develop people’s
lives. “The AfCFTA is a free trade agreement that has been signed by 54 African Union Countries including Lesotho and it started operating regionally on the 1st
January 2021,” Malibeng stated. Ministry of Trade and Industry Promotion Officer Selebalo Mpeshe further explained that this is an agreement under which
the African countries vowed to decrease tariffs and fees during international trade, under supervision of the World Trade Organization (WTO). “Trade is an
accumulation of goods and services which include things that can be tangible like clothes and food and the trade services focus on the priority sectors such
as financial, telecommunication, transport, tourism and business services. “The main objective of the agreement is to make the trading landscape in Africa simpler, more affordable and easier
for businesses to trade across the border including Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME’s) and providing consumers with variety of options and in relation to
goods and services,” he said. Mpeshe further added that AfCFTA negotiations started in 2015 with Phase I and Phase II, whereby Phase I covers goods and services, Phase II covers investment, intellectual property rights
and competition policy and Phase III will cone E-Commerce and digital trade. “54 countries have signed the agreement and 36 countries have ratified it.
Lesotho ratified the agreement in November 2020,” he explained. The Promotion Officer indicated that in order to facilitate trade under this agreement, 36 countries including Lesotho have
deposited their instruments of ratification indicating their acceptance and willingness to start trading. These countries among others include Angola,
Burkina Faso, Kenya, Cameroon, ESwatini, Botswana, Sao Tome, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Ethiopia. “Lesotho’s participation in AfCFTA lies on the fact that it is part of Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and
participated in the negotiations under SACU. Therefore SACU as a customs union shares a single common external tariffs and the Lesotho participation is to
attract investment, increase jobs creation through industrialization and value chains participation like in its textiles as well as reduction in the costs of doing
business within the country,” he stated. Mpeshe indicated that AfCFTA agreement benefits to Lesotho include that of being a large and dynamic market for Lesotho exports, and the Lesotho importers and manufactures will be able to
source inputs competitively from other African Countries. “In the implementation and cohesion of the agreement, trade liberalization alone cannot guarantee maximum benefits and this necessitates assisting businesses,
particularly MSMEs which may not have capacity to increase their production. In the case of Lesotho there are a number of projects that are being implemented
in the areas covering developments projects in agriculture and manufacturing such as Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP) and Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification (PSCEDP),” he noted.