SA remains committed to continental AfCFTA

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

South Africa remains committed to becoming a signatory to the African Union’s agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

In March, Tshwane held off on signing the actual agreement until legal and other instruments associated with AfCFTA are processed and ratified by South African stakeholders and Parliament.

But on Tuesday, International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu announced that South Africa as a signatory to the agreement is on Cabinet’s agenda.

“South Africa is fully committed to the AfCFTA and signed the Kigali Declaration launching the AfCFTA, which demonstrates South Africa’s political commitment to sign the Agreement and its Protocols, once it has fulfilled its domestic requirements, including consultations with social partners and ascension by Parliament," the Minister said in her pre-Budget Vote briefing.

The agreement is the initiative between three regional economic communities: Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community and Southern African Development Community in the Eastern and Southern Africa which liberalise services and aims to tackle so-called "non-tariff barriers" which hamper trade between African countries, such as long delays at the border.

It is aimed at deepening African economic integration by promoting agricultural development, food security, industrialisation and structural economic transformation through single-air continental transport market with free movement of persons, capital, goods and services.

The envisaged AfCFTA is designed to combine market integration with industrial and infrastructure development to address Africa's productive capacity.

This will remove supply-side constraints, promote the diversification of Africa's export base from dependence on raw materials to value-added products, as well as alleviate the chronic infrastructure deficit on the continent.

Besides offering an opportunity to create larger economies of scale, a bigger market and improved prospects for the African continent to attract investment, the AfCFTA will provide new export opportunities for South African products and services in West Africa and North Africa.

Minister Sisulu said South Africa’s participation in the AfCFTA will assist South African businesses to expand into the African market and in so doing contribute to economic development on the continent.

“For South Africa in particular, it will serve to address the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality as set out in the National Development Plan (NDP).”

According to the Department of Trade and Industry, the AfCFTA is being pursued under the development integration approach.

This approach combines market integration with industrial and infrastructure development to address Africa’s productive capacity and supply-side constraints. It is also expected to facilitate the movement of goods and services among African countries, resulting in the harmonisation of customs documentation and processes thus enhancing trade facilitation.

The AfCFTA will make Africa the largest free trade area created in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation with a potential to create an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a Gross Domestic Product of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars. -