THE Socialist Party says it views the newly launched Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as an opportunity for poverty reduction.
Party first vice-president and general secretary Cosmas Musumali however says without a socialist agenda, such a programme could not be achieved.
Dr Musumali, an economist, says under a socialist government, the AfCFTA could also enhance equity.
“The Socialist Party views the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) as an opportunity that can work towards poverty reduction and enhancing equity. It is however not possible to achieve these aspirations in Zambia without a socialist oriented economic programme,” he said in a statement. “Again, AfCFTA is an opportunity. However, like with most opportunities, they need concrete action and processes that are embedded in achieving the collective and common good for the masses of our people. Otherwise, they will quickly vanish or even become a liability.”
Dr Musumali highlighted six areas of agricultural development in which the programme could be used effectively.
He added that food sovereignty was important for any nation.
“Our investments in agriculture aim at achieving the production of healthy food for all, adoption of agroecology, adoption of mechanisation that is 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,” Dr Musumali said. “These are the prerequisites for our food sovereignty as well as for turning this natural resource endowed country into a hub for manufactured food exports.”
He explained that a socialist government would systematically link investments in peasant agriculture to value addition through food processing and the expansion of continental export markets.
Specifically, Dr Musumali said the socialist government would pay special attention 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 a continental big player in the AfCFTA. Today, we have about five Zambian companies amongst the top 100 in food manufacturing on the continent. These include Africa Milling Limited, Zambeef Products, Trade Kings, Yalelo, in addition to Pembe (that originates from Kenya),” Dr Musumali noted. “This is highly insufficient given our immense comparative advantages and the urgency for export diversification. We will therefore enable a total of 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 in US dollars, billions!”
Dr Musumali outlined other ventures his socialist government would use to boost agriculture.
“The second venture will be for meat processing. A public owned company (along the lines of the Botswana Meat Commission) will fill up the regional export gaps for meat, leather and other livestock products experienced today,” he explained. “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.”
He further cited sugar manufacturing as the fourth pillar in a socialist government’s agriculture programme.
Dr Musumali explained that “four to five sugarcane plantations aiming at the production of sugar, methanol and molasses would provide sufficient continental export capacities”.
“The fifth venture will be based on the processing of agricultural products – especially grain, fruits and vegetables – into alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The technological requirements and sophisticated distribution networks can be a challenge,” Dr Musumali noted. “A Public-Private-Partnership arrangement could help to resolve these intricacies. The sixth venture provides itself in milling – with special emphasis on nutrition and health diets. In revenue terms, the six new ventures could generate about USD 1.2 billion per annum 10 years from now. They would connect about 200,000 peasant farmers to the export value chain whist raising their revenues five-fold.”
He said from the highlighted programme, thousands of jobs would also be created.
“This would make our peasant farmers the pillar of export growth, i.e. sustainable poverty reduction at its best. Thousands of quality manufacturing jobs will be created. Last but not least, it will add resilience to our macro-economy since the effective demand for regionally manufactured food is less volatile,” said Dr Musumali.