THE SOCIALIST Party views the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaty as an opportunity to reduce poverty and enhance equity in Zambia, but only in the context of socialist economic policies in the country, the party’s general secretary and first vice-president Cosmas Musumali has said.
He was responding to a question about how SP perceived the AfCFTA agreement and how it fitted in with the party’s manifesto emphasis on developing peasant agriculture.
The AfCFTA treaty involves the fifty-five member states of the African Union establishing a continental free trade area to create a single continent-wide market for goods and services and facilitate the movement of capital and people. So far, 36 countries have ratified the treaty – including Zambia, in October, last year. It entered into force on May 30, 2019, and started trading on January 1, this year.
“It is not possible to achieve these aspirations in Zambia without a socialist oriented-economic programme,” Dr Musumali said.
“Our investments in agriculture aim at achieving the production of healthy food for all, the adoption of agroecology, adoption of mechanisation compatible with nature and rural labour, adoption of cooperative agribusiness, agricultural education, as well as empowering peasants and the people in the rural areas as keepers of the collective goods of nature,” he said.
“These are the prerequisites for our food sovereignty as well as for turning this natural resources endowed country into a hub for manufactured food exports.
“Our socialist government will systematically link investments in peasant agriculture to value addition through food processing and the expansion of continental export markets. “Special attention will be played to the attainment of viable economies of scale, product branding, flexible export financing and improved logistical arrangements. These are critical in order to catapult us into being a major continental player in the AfCFTA.”
Dr Musumali said that at present there were only about five Zambian companies among the top 100 in food manufacturing on the continent, including Africa Milling Limited, Zambeef Products, Trade Kings, Yalelo, and Pembe (which originated from Kenya). “This is highly insufficient given our immense comparative advantages and the urgency for export diversification,” he said. “We will therefore enable six more food manufacturing companies to join that league of continental players within 10 years.
“Leading this drive will be a tertiary cooperative venture processing cassava, beans, groundnuts, millet and other traditional peasant farmer produce. Its medium-term continental and global revenue prospects are worth billions of US dollars.
“The second venture will be for meat processing. A publicly owned company (along the lines of the Botswana Meat Commission) will fill today’s regional export gaps for meat, leather, and other livestock products.
“A third venture will focus on aquaculture. This will require a cluster of companies and cooperatives that, as a conglomerate, will create enough economies of scale to compete against seawater fishery products. The venture will have to extend beyond Zambia to incorporate regional rivers and lake bodies.
“Sugar manufacturing presents the fourth pillar. Four to five sugarcane plantations will aim to produce sugar, methanol and molasses to provide sufficient continental exports.
“The fifth venture will be based on the processing of agricultural products – especially grain, fruit and vegetables – into alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The technological requirements and sophisticated distribution networks can be a challenge, but a public-private partnership arrangement can help resolve the intricacies.
“The sixth venture involves milling, with special emphasis on nutrition and health diets.”
Dr Musumali said that in revenue terms, the six new ventures could generate around US$1.2 billion per annum in 10 years’ time. “They would connect some 200,000 peasant farmers to the export value chain while increasing their revenues fivefold,” he said. “This would make our peasant farmers the pillar of export growth, that is sustainable poverty reduction at its best. Thousands of quality manufacturing jobs will be created.
“Last but not least, it will add resilience to our macroeconomy since the effective demand for regionally manufactured food is less volatile.
“Again, the AfCFTA provides an opportunity. However, as with most opportunities, it needs concrete action and processes embedded in achieving the collective and common good for the masses of our people, otherwise it will quickly vanish or even become a liability.”