ZIMBABWE Youth in Tourism patron, First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa, has called on African countries to synchronise their tourism, trade and investment policy frameworks to take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

In a speech read on her behalf by acting Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Nqobizitha Ndlovu at the Africa Youth in Tourism conference held in Bulawayo last week, Mnangagwa said: “There is need to synchronise African countries’ tourism, trade and investment policy frameworks to engineer enabling mechanism to take full advantage of the newly formed African continental free trade area.”

“This calls on Zimbabwe as a major actor in tourism to drive the south regional economic integration to make Africa an optimum destination for Africa. In the process, this will allow plenty of labour and unintended cross border trade of goods and services.”

To date, 27 countries, including Zimbabwe, have ratified AfCFTA meant to create strong economic integration on the continent by forming a single continental market.
It is also one of the largest free trade areas since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, given Africa’s current population of 1,2 billion people, which is expected to grow to 2,5 billion by 2050.

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The AfCFTA agreement also has the potential to foster industrialisation and deepen regional value chains.Other benefits include elimination of tariffs in the continental free trade area, meaning that companies will now be able to export many products and be more competitive with the equal pricing of all products in foreign African markets.

The agreement will also remove tariffs that were making exported products cost more, resulting in products becoming less desirable in other markets.Mnangagwa said as a Sadc member, Zimbabwe should ensure that it played a role in ensuring that its tourism sector elevated the region’s economic growth.

She said women and youth should be included in the continent’s economic development.“As you may be aware, as at 2008 to 2018, women in Africa contributed over 56,4% to the continent’s economic development agenda through marshaling food security, mining and cross border trade, among other macro-economic activities,” she said.

“It is important for policymakers to harness the youth demographic dividend in aiding Zimbabwe and Africa’s capacity, securing the ultimate realisation of the cardinal requisite of the investment goal.”

She said the clarion call set before all citizens, the youth in particular, was that of exploiting the given context of liberty to adequately participate in all activities which seek to generate inclusive empowerment across generations.

“In this regard, it is worth noting that the youth constitute a critical mass in decision-making. All avenues advancing the direct appreciation of youth in policymaking must be embraced with a view of championing equitable access to opportunities and resources,” she said.

Mnangagwa said according to a 2017 study capturing the contribution of tourism in alleviating the burden of unemployment in Africa, it was observed that the tourism sector contributed over 90 million jobs for youth and it was gradually expected to generate employment for over 12 million people by 2028.

She said, in line with aspirations of austerity, youth stand to be beneficiaries of the sectoral output as far as the continent strategic human capital is concerned.
“While this information on the prospects of leveraging tourism and hospitality is abundant, there is hesitant contribution of young people’s perspectives on the sector and that on its own is a challenge to advance tourism policy formulation processes,” she said.

The conference, which is held annually, ran under the theme Changing Africa’s future by accelerating investment capacity in youth for sustainable tourism development.