The new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will create a single market for Africa, one that aims to remove nearly all tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade between African countries. When this happens, Eswatini’s trade is expected to increase by 52 percent, measuring the specific figures for 2022 against those of 2010. The trade will bring together 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of US$ 2 trillion. According to Nathi Dlamini, the
Chairperson of the AfCFTA National Steering Committee, Eswatini has submitted a bid to host the Secretariat
of the AfCFTA. “When the AU invited interested Member States to submit a bid to host the unit, the Kingdom of Eswatini wholeheartedly joined the competition,” he said. This month, an independent Inspection Team from the AU is
expected to visit the country to validate the information and assurances contained in Eswatini’s bid, and will
form its own view, prior to making recommendations to the Executive Council of the AU. A decision on the hosting of the Secretariat will then be made in July 2019. The competition to host is fierce. Six other Member States have submitted bids to host the Secretariat. “It would not be appropriate for us to embark on a public comparison of the attributes and drawbacks of the competing member states,” said the Chairperson. However, Dlamini went on to say it was better to simply focus on what the country can offer, with the hope that the Inspection Team, and ultimately the AU membership, will find it fitting to award Eswatini the merit that it deserves. “When the Secretariat comes to Eswatini, over 200 quality jobs will be directly generated, in addition to the 200 professional positions. The 400 new jobs will give rise to the creation of several thousand additional sustainable livelihoods in our society – domestic staff, drivers, and the additional staff of the public and private sectors responding to the resultant growth in economic activity in the agricultural, general commercial, property, transport, health, education and retail sectors,”Dlamini said. Hosting the Secretariat would display the prominent role being played by Eswatini in greater international integration and collaboration across the continent. It could also raise the Kingdom’s profile and bring many new official and other visitors to this country. That, in itself, would not only boost Eswatini’s reputation as a key team player in the AU but would also expose the merits of Eswatini as a destination for foreign
direct investment. Such benefits as well as those from the single market itself would dwarf the cost of providing
the office and the requisite residential accommodation that has been promised in the bid. Moreover, serving Africa in a manner that is also serving Emaswati has to be one of the most obvious win-wins of recent times.

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