President Cyril Ramaphosa. FILE PHOTO: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - The recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will require world class infrastructure and the continent is undertaking large, cross-border projects which will create new opportunities for investors as they are realised, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.

Ramaphosa told a South Africa-Japan business forum in Japan, on the sidelines of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), that these projects included liquid natural gas fields in Mozambique, new ports and rail lines across southern Africa and pan-African iron and steel initiatives, with the African Development Bank estimating the continent needed between $130 billion and $170 billion a year to meet its infrastructure needs.

"This TICAD summit is an excellent moment to reflect on how we can deepen our ties and move towards a future of shared prosperity for our countries," Ramaphosa added, also calling the summit a clear indication of the strength of the relationship between Japan and Africa.

"From a South African perspective, Japan is one of our most important partners. Japan is a leading investor in a number of South African sectors, ranging from automobiles to advanced mining machinery, and from agribusiness to financial services."

He said Africa was on the cusp of a new era, with the AfCFTA, now in the implementation phase, drawing the continent closer to creating a free trade area "stretching from Cape to Cairo".

"Without doubt our development path will be long and complex," Ramaphosa said.

"But the lesson of the development of the Asia-Pacific region must surely be that those who invest early and work to develop local capabilities stand to gain the most as underdevelopment gives way to a region of huge consumer markets and advanced productive hubs."

The investment potential of African projects was immense, but these were too large and complex to be undertaken alone, he told the forum.

South African firms had decades of experience working on the continent and were ideally positioned to assist new and established investors in Africa. 

"As the most diversified economy on the continent, South Africa has the skills, resources and manufacturing capability to help drive the development of productive infrastructure in Africa, and enable the participation of global partners like Japan," said Ramaphosa.

"The coming infrastructure revolution, combined with the Continental Free Trade Area, means that manufacturing in Africa is the best way to sell in Africa. "

- African News Agency (ANA)