One of the landmark events in Africa’s geopolitical landscape this year was the agreement reached in Kigali, Rwanda, on the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), whose coming into operation is expected to catapult intra-African trade, leading to an improvement in the living conditions of the continent’s people.
The “Kigali Declaration for the Launch of the CFTA” is to serve as “an effective conduit for increased trade and investment across the African continent”, thereby addressing the prevailing situation which is characterised by Africa’s “traditional reliance on the export of raw commodities and the import of value-added products”, said President Cyril Ramaphosa at the extraordinary African Union (AU) Summit held mid-year in the Rwandan capital.
Trade amongst African states must improve if the continent is to address the phenomena of poverty, unemployment, and inequality. According to the Cairo-based African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank), intra-African trade currently stands around at 15%, compared to Europe’s 59%, Asia’s 51%, and North America’s 37%. The impediments have been identified, ranging from poor infrastructure connectivity to lack of manufacturing capabilities.
African leaders are at one not only on the objectives of the ACFTA but also on the urgency of its implementation. Economic integration requires unity of purpose on the political front. That is why South Africa is working hard to cement the good relations that it enjoys with fellow African states.
Soon after assuming his position, President Cyril Ramaphosa, joined by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, embarked on a tour of the continent. This was aimed at re-affirming South Africa’s belief that its future is inextricably linked to that of the rest of the continent.
Whilst in Rwanda to take part in the AU Summit that adopted the ACFTA, President Ramaphosa met several African leaders including chair of the AU, President Paul Kagame, for bilateral talks. At the conclusion of their meeting, the two presidents tasked their foreign ministers with the responsibility to work together on matters between Pretoria and Kigali. The directive was underpinned by an understanding that political unity and harmony had to move in tandem with emerging trends centered around economic integration.
Minister Sisulu is adamant that South Africa must build bridges and find ways of cementing its relations with fellow African countries. Such relations, she says, must be based on mutual respect and understanding.
South Africa stands ready to ensure greater and enhanced cooperation among African countries.