As South Africa prepares to take over the chair of the African Union (AU) next January, among President Cyril Ramaphosa’s responsibilities, will be to guide the implementation of the agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aimed at promoting intra-African trade.
The AfCFTA – in force among 27 African countries – includes South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Niger, Chad, Congo Republic, Djibouti, Guinea, Eswatini, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo, Egypt, Ethiopia, The Gambia and Sierra Leone among its signatories.
Writing in his weekly online letter, Ramaphosa said African countries should put rules, regulations and mechanisms in place to enable the AfCFTA’s effective functioning.
“We will need to turn aspirations into action. We will also need to invest in the infrastructure to move goods from one African country to another – producing such goods in the first place. While we are undertaking a massive investment drive in South Africa, we are also encouraging investment in other parts of the continent,” said Ramaphosa.
“We do so in pursuit of the shared African vision of Agenda 2063, knowing that South Africa cannot prosper unless Africa as a whole prospers.” Ramaphosa said South African companies already have an established presence in many other parts of the continent, and that now is the time for a surge of South African investment in other markets on the continent.
Nigeria and South Africa, said Ramaphosa, were important for each other’s economies. “More than 100 South African companies have investments in Nigeria and over 1,700 have active trade relations in the country. Trade between the two countries was worth around R50 billion last year, with South Africa importing a significant amount of its fuel from Nigeria,” he said.
The time was “right for a new era of intra-African trade, where African countries no longer look abroad for the products and services they need, but to other countries in this continent”.
Reflecting on last week’s official meeting with his Nigerian counterpart, President Muhammadu Buhari, Ramaphosa said: “Some people had thought that the visit would be tense and difficult following the attacks last month on foreign nationals living in South Africa and the angry reaction to these events in Nigeria.
“It turned out to be an extremely successful visit, where we not only cemented the relations between our two countries but found that we are of one mind on how South Africa and Nigeria can together play a key role in the future of the African continent.”