Businesses in Seychelles will be able to access a market of 1.2 billion people after the National Assembly approved the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a top government official said on Friday.
This agreement aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments, while paving the way for accelerating the establishment of the customs union.
The Principal Secretary for Trade, Cillia Mangroo, told reporters that it would be in the Seychelles’ best interest to ratify and join this trade block as Africa has a very large middle-class population with an expendable budget at its disposal.
“It will benefit Seychelles in terms of getting products at a cheaper price and our products being sold in the region at a preferential rate,” she said.
After Seychelles signed the agreement in March 2018, consultation meetings took place with key business players through the establishment of a national committee consisting of various agencies and organisations concerned with trade in the country.
As negotiations are still ongoing on how services will be traded in the African region, the Trade Department is to call on businesses in the private sector to get in touch with its offices either in person or by e-mail to provide information of their business areas and markets of interest.
“I would encourage more of the private sector to be active in consultations with our office in regards to services because I think this is where our strong point is. When it comes to goods we don’t have enough land, we don’t have enough resources. But when it comes to services you don’t need much, you just need your intelligence,” said Mangroo.
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Although Seychelles signed the AfCFTA two years ago, Mangroo explained that the island nation only ratified the agreement this year after certain conditions were improved and were now favourable to its interests.
One of the key sectors of interest to Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, is fisheries which is the second top economic contributor after tourism.
Mangroo said that is one of the areas that Seychelles will benefit from as a result of joining the African trade block.
She added that while there will never be an agreement that will completely satisfy the country’s interest but that “Seychelles is set to benefit more from the agreement than it will lose.”
Currently, 38 other African countries have signed the AfCFTA, and once President Wavel Ramkalawan signs his assent, Seychelles will send the documents to the depository office in order to become the latest member.