Namibia has assumed the chairmanship of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) until July 2020 and immediately called for action to ensure the union becomes one of the main building blocks for the newly launched African Continental Free Trade Area.
Namibian Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein took over from Lesotho Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro as chairperson of the SACU Council of Ministers.
Speaking during the official handover in Windhoek, Schlettwein pledged Namibia’s commitment to carry out the mandate of the customs union and said the success of the SACU arrangement was a harbinger of prospects for the AfCFTA.
“The envisaged continental free trade area present an opportunity for increased intra-Africa trade. And in that light, SACU as a customs union, must leverage on this window of opportunity through the deepening of industrial and production capacity, economic diversification and participation in the continental and global value chain,” he said.
The AfCFTA seeks to create an integrated African market that brings together all the 55 African Union member states, covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people and with a combined gross domestic product of more than US$3.4 trillion.
It became operational on 30 May after the required 22 countries had deposited their instruments of ratification with the AU Commission.
Formed in 1910, SACU is the world’s oldest customs union and operates as a customs union of eSwatini, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa under a renewable agreement.
The main provisions of the agreement are that the tariff regime in force in South Africa applies to the other countries, serving as a common external tariff; and that customs and excise revenue collected in the other member states is paid into a Common Revenue Pool whose proceeds are distributed according to an agreed formula.
The chairmanship of SACU rotate among the member states on yearly basis in alphabetical order.
Namibian President Hage Geingob is now the chairman of the SACU Summit while Schlettwein chairs the SACU Council of Ministers.
In addition, Ericah Shafudah, the executive director in the Namibian Ministry of Finance took over as chairperson role of the SACU Commission.