Kudakwashe Mhundwa Business Reporter
Government needs to re-align its departments and ensure they belong to correct ministries so as to ensure efficiency in the way it conducts business, Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda has said.
Speaking at an awareness workshop on the African Continental Free Trade Area held recently, Adv Mudenda said there was a need to clearly streamline departments that are placed under different ministries in order to maximise their benefit to the country’s economy.
He lamented how the Department of Trade is still under the purview of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce while it should be under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
“Regrettably, up to now the Department of Trade is still housed under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. While our local industry is the driver of international trade, it is key that the functions of Government departments are clearly streamlined and coordinated in order for the country to maximise its benefits from trade.
“The Portfolio Committees on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and on Industry and Commerce should thus ensure that this dichotomy is resolved so that ministries take up their responsibilities as assigned,” said Adv Mudenda.
Commenting on progress on the realignment process, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and International, Trade Kindness Paradza said his committee was “pushing” towards the move.
Adv Mudenda implored embassies to extend their role beyond political diplomacy to include economic diplomacy.
The embassies have a huge role to play in building the country’s image in foreign markets through marketing, information provision and economic advocacy, he said.
He also stressed the need for Government to strengthen international trade bodies such as ZimTrade as well as industrial groupings such as the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) to enable them market Zimbabwean products.
“There is a need to strengthen ZimTrade so that it is able to efficiently execute its mandate of promoting regional, continental and international trade.
“CZI and the ZNCC should advance productivity and competitiveness of goods and services so that they are easily marketable throughout the continental free trade area,” he said.
The call comes at a time when the country is stepping up its legal policies, financial operations and technical expertise so that the country can benefit from the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is expected to double Africa’s trade participation from 3-6 percent within its first tenure.
Once established, the AfCFTA will bring together 55 countries, availing a market of 1,2 billion people with a gross domestic product (GDP) of about $3,5 trillion.
The goal is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.
The agreement has the potential to deliver a great deal for countries on the continent. The hope is that the trade deal will trigger a virtuous cycle of more intra-African trade, which will drive the structural transformation of economies.
It is also expected to drive the transition from low productivity and labour-intensive activities to higher productivity and skills-intensive industrial and service activities — which, in turn, will produce better paid jobs and make an impact on poverty.