South Africa has shipped the first consignment of products to neighbouring countries under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), boosting the momentum of the world’s largest free trade area.
Refrigerators, home appliances, and mining equipment were among the products shipped from KwaZulu-Natal’s Durban Port on Wednesday, January 31.
“This shipment demonstrates that the African Continental Free Trade Area is a reality…we are taking forward the dream of an ever larger and ever stronger Africa,” said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the event.
He emphasized that only proper implementation of the AfCFTA would allow African countries to grow quickly and sustainably.
Mr Ramaphosa said that South African automotive companies sourced leather car seats from a factory in Lesotho that employs about a thousand people, as well as wiring harnesses from Botswana, where two plants also engage several thousand people.
The companies, he added, sourced copper wire from Zambia, rubber from Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Malawi, Ghana and Cameroon, and steering wheel components from Tunisia.
“These are installed in cars that are then exported from South Africa to other parts of the world. These inputs alone accounted for more than $200 million worth of products traded among African countries and the scope to do more is available to us,” he said.
The South African President praised African Trade Ministers for ensuring that about 92 per cent of the products traded between nations had been finalized, emphasizing that trade mechanisms for goods had proceeded faster than for services.
“We, therefore, need to put more effort into building African champions in finance, retail and telecommunications, and in expanding tourism between African countries,” he said.
Mr Wamkele Mene, Secretary General, AfCFTA Secretariat said that the inclusion of South Africa in the Guided Trade Initiative (GTI) demonstrated a significant milestone in the broader expansion of the free trade agreement.
“This expansion is a clear reflection of our collective resolve to harness the full potential of the AfCFTA for the prosperity of our continent,” he said.
Mr Mene reiterated that AfCFTA represented the most promising pathway towards prosperity for African countries.
“To fully tap into its full potential, it is imperative for our countries to place a high priority on manufacturing, transforming our free trade area into a hub of industrial activity.
“Particularly, the development of regional value chains and the expansion of light manufacturing present tremendous opportunities to support industrialisation, diversify exports, and create numerous job opportunities,” he said.
Mr Mene noted that by capitalizing on the potential provided by the intra-continental free trade agreement, “our countries set themselves on a path of sustained economic progress.”
He assured the Secretariat's full commitment to continue to build Africa's trade network.
“Our primary focus is to empower African companies to fully capitalize on the opportunities that arise. By doing so, we aim to generate quality job opportunities for our people,” he said
Mr Ebrahim Patel, South African Minister for Trade and Industry stated that around 12 nations were prepared and equipped to trade under the AfCFTA in products ranging from food and beverages to steel and equipment.
Other products were taxis, pharmaceutical and personal care products, chemicals and household goods such as fridges and televisions.