The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has the potential to accelerate economic growth across the continent and create opportunities for entrepreneurs, small and medium enterprises, as well as large corporations to flourish.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said the AfCFTA would provide new export opportunities for ‘Made in Africa’ products and enable member countries to trade with each other without tariffs or other hindrances.
“All of this will help the continent to absorb the 10 to 12 million African youth looking to enter the job market annually. The AfCFTA should therefore be underpinned by strong and ambitious rules of origin, requiring a very high level of value-add here on our continent.
“We need, as Africans, to resist the temptation to simply become transhipment centres, adding only limited industrial value in Africa,” he said.
The AfCFTA, Ramaphosa said, would unlock more value and give effect to the dream of African development if it promoted complementary trade between countries.
“It is about using the combination of the continent’s raw materials and industrial capacity, finance, services and infrastructure to produce quality finished goods to local and global markets. It is about creating a market large enough to attract investors from across the world to set up their production facilities on the continent,” Ramaphosa said.
He called on leaders to unite and leverage platforms such as the Intra-African Trade Fair, which opened in Kwazulu-Natal on Monday, to mobilise all African governments, together with social partners, to work tirelessly to address youth unemployment.
He said half of Africa’s people were women, and they were the dominant actors in the informal sectors of Africa’s economic landscape.
“Despite this, women only generate about a third of the continent’s combined GDP. It is important that the Intra-African Trade Fair gives special attention to African women in business, recognising their great potential as drivers of economic change across the continent.”
He urged the continent to find ways of attracting more investment into economies, and encourage African businesses to invest in each other’s countries.
“This requires that we improve the ease of doing business in our countries and provide protection for investors through strong and independent legal systems that will ensure the sanctity of contract, and fair and expeditious legal processes,” he said.
Ramaphosa added that the hour of action was now, and countries must work with speed to resolve any outstanding issues around the AfCFTA, and take the necessary steps towards domestication.
He reiterated that South Africa was ready to work closely with all African countries to forge more balanced, equitable and fair trade relations among African nations. – SAnews.gov.za