According to Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, trade restrictions between African countries are suffocating the movement of goods to the point where African countries find it easier to buy African products through Europe.
President Hichilema remarked during a state visit to Kenya that the continent needed to open its borders, implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to remedy the anomaly, and make business between countries easier rather than relying on third parties.
During the state dinner hosted by Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, Hichilema stated that "...how bizarre it is that we occasionally buy Kenyan products via Europe and vice versa." That doesn’t make any sense, right? Certainly not, and that's what we want to address, "
"Thank you, President Kenyatta, for providing us with this opportunity to continue on the path started by those who came before us. We know you're doing it for the people of Kenya, Zambia, and Africa. " President Hichilema remarked.
In response, President Kenyatta stated, "I want to reassure you that the Kenyan government will continue to work with its partners in Zambia and across the African continent to remove trade obstacles, increase the ease of doing business, and open our borders to our African brothers and sisters."
He added "In this context, we have committed to resolving the current bottlenecks, including resolving a few tariff and non-tariff barriers that prevent our people from freely trading with one another." This visit (by President Hichilema) will enhance collaboration between our two countries as we seek to deepen that partnership for the mutual benefit of our respective peoples. "
The State Dinner commemorated President Hichilema's first visit to Kenya since his election in October. The two leaders used the occasion to promise that they would open their borders to address a number of trade barriers.
The two leaders also signed memorandums of understanding in the areas of trade, investment, and agriculture. So far, sugar, edible oils, textiles, toiletries, detergents, and crafts, among other items, accounted for $39.16 million in trade between Zambia and Kenya.
Both countries are members of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), a 21-nation trading bloc that comprises countries as varied as Tunisia and eSwatini, but all of which are members of the African Union.
African countries have been implementing the AfCFTA since March of last year, which is viewed as the ultimate answer to gradually removing trade obstacles and making it simpler to move goods between member states, with the goal of increasing intra-African trade from its current 14 percent.