HARARE-- Zimbabwe's industries should begin retooling to be able to produce competitive products in preparation for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Competition and Tariff Commission says.

Last month, Zimbabwe joined other African countries in signing the agreement which will result in the operationalization of the AfCFTA to make the continent the largest free trade area created since the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO in 1995.

The AfCFTA could create an African market of more than 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of 2.5 trillion US dollars.

The CTC said in a statement here Sunday that the AfCFTA is envisaged to provide an enlarged market access for Zimbabwean products hence the need for local industries to develop efficient production systems.

While the agreement will come into effect once ratified by the minimum number of member states, local industry should now start to prepare for the implementation of the AfCFTA by retooling and recapitalizing its

plant and equipment, developing efficient production systems that will churn out competitive products in terms of quality and price as well as start identifying possible new markets and product requirements, said

the commission.

Thj CTC also urged the government to support the private sector-driven initiatives by providing mechanisms that buttress local industry's competitiveness. Other supportive measures include availing favourable terms lines of credit, reducing or rationalising the costs of doing business in-country, and creation of a conducive environment for business for local and foreign companies to thrive in, said the CTC.

Already 44 out of 55 African countries have signed up to establish the AfCFTA within 18 months. However, the continent's two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, did not sign the agreement when it was launched in Kigali citing need for further domestic consultations.

The AfCFTA is a flagship project of the African Union's Agenda 2063 initiative, the long-term vision for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa by the year 2063. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the AfCFTA has potential to boost intra-Africa trade by 53 per cent by eliminating import duties and non-tariff barriers.

The free trade area will be operationalized when the agreement is ratified by parliaments of at least 22 countries.