Vietnamese exports to Africa have faced price-related challenges as they have to compete with other African nations in terms of import tax, given the fact there is no free trade agreement or preferential trade agreement between Vietnam and regional countries.
According to the Vietnamese Commercial Affairs Office in South Africa, 44 African nations officially sealed a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement during the tenth extraordinary session of the African Union (AU) in Kigali, Rwanda, last March.
The deal will come into force within 180 days after at least 22 countries approve it. The agreement has given birth to the world’s largest free trade area in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation in 1948. It can create a single market with a population of 1.2 billion and GDP of 2.5 trillion USD.
Under the pact, the signatories committed to remove tariffs on more than 90 percent of goods. The agreement will address seven priority areas related to trade: policy, infrastructure, finance, information, market integration, productivity increase and trade facilitation.
Experts said the deal is expected to drive up intra-Africa trade by about 52 percent by 2022, as compared with 2010. The exchange of industrial products is also projected to expand by 53 percent. The Vietnamese office said the CFTA helps cut commercial costs and enable African consumers to access diverse products with lower prices.
Lower costs of production materials exchanged between CFTA member countries would raise competitiveness of local producers and help create regional value chains, the office said.
Pointing out price challenges for Vietnamese exports to Africa, the office suggested Vietnamese businesses make use of benefits brought about by the pact, which will turn Africa into a busier and more promising area for commercial activities.
Hoang Oanh, head of the Department of Asia-Africa Markets under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said Vietnamese firms should pay more attention to markets like Algeria, Egypt, South Africa and Angola, and products like rice, coffee, pepper, seafood, household electric products, garments-textiles and machines for agriculture and garment-textile. With a 1.2 billion population, the region’s demand for rice is expected to sharply increase, she said, explaining that rice production costs more than imports in African countries as they have to invest much in irrigation.
Besides, they have met difficulties in ensuring food security since the regional population is growing faster than the pace of agricultural production. Additionally, the number of mobile phone subscribers in Africa increases the fastest in the world, she said, describing this as a great opportunity for Vietnamese telecommunications firms.