South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has called on all Africans to work together, and promote intercontinental trade amidst violent xenophobic attacks in the country.
Mboweni was speaking at the World Economic Forum held in Cape Town, where he was standing in for President Cyril Ramaphosa.
This comes at a time when the country is ravaged by violent xenophobic attacks, which have seen the South African embassy in the Nigerian city of Lagos came under attack.
Mboweni however urged South Africans to maintain peace, and charged that SA stands to benefit far more from the Africa Intercontinental Free Trade Agreement.
“The fact that the African leadership has now signed in large numbers, the African Intercontinental Free Trade agreement is a good start. I would hope that our leadership lead in popularising this agreement within the different countries. I hope that this will be understood by every business person, trader and particularly by every border post official,” said Mboweni.
The Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) entered into force on 30 May 2019 for the 24 countries that had deposited their instruments of ratification.
However, South Africa has seen in the past two weeks what stands to threaten the implementation of the agreement.
Nigeria said on Wednesday it would boycott the World Economic Forum in Cape Town, intensifying a diplomatic row after a series of deadly attacks on foreigners in South African cities.
The withdrawal of Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo from the World Economic Forum gathering has cast a cloud over initiatives to boost intra-African trade. He was scheduled to address a panel on universal energy access on Thursday.
Mboweni said for this agreement to be implemented effectively, Afrcans from different parts of the continent will have to be allowed free movement.
“I am of the view that African solidarity is key and living together as Africans is key. If a South African wants to live in Abuja they should be free to do so, If a Nigerian wants to live in Johannesburg they should be free to do so. These artificial barriers that we have created, and this hatred we have created amongst ourselves it must be a thing of the past,” said Mboweni.
“If the free movement of people is supposed to happen, whether it is through the AU passport or whatever the case is, we should facilitate the free movement of people and trade.
“If we are going to have that movement of people, one cannot be in a situation where you allow this person but not the other person. We are all Africans, we need to inculcate within yourself that mentality that we are all African. As an African I should be able to settle wherever I want in Africa,” added Mboweni.