SA agriculture told to seize the day and sow AfCTA opportunities
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DURBAN - THE SOUTH African agricultural sector was urged by the government to seize opportunities and sow growth provided by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which started at the beginning of the year.
The new market, created under the AfCFTA agreement, is estimated to be as large as 1.3 billion people across Africa, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion (R48trl).
Sphamandla Mazibuko, of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development (DALRRD) International Trade directorate, said the potential trade opportunities the AfCFTA would bring for the agriculture sector included breaking strong intra-regional FTA trade as South Africa’s exports were currently concentrated in Southern Africa.
He was speaking this week at the Agri SA webinar on Positioning SA Agriculture in the African Continental Free Trade Area, facilitated by Agbiz senior economist Wandile Sihlobo.
Agri-SA agricultural economist Kulani Siweya said AfCFTA was “finally here”.
“It presents on the one hand an opportunity to deepen market integration on the continent, boost intra-African trade and promote regional value chains toward economic transformation through industrialisation. While on the other hand, it’s an opportunity to achieve economic development goals, particularly of employment,” said Siweya.
He said that the current times were indeed exciting times, as this progression towards liberalised markets through large tariff reductions and the removal of non-tariff barriers, presented the local agricultural and agro-processing sectors with access to previously inaccessible markets and improved ease of access to the existing market.
“It will be great to see the private sector take advantage of this by building partnerships and increase investment in regional value chains to facilitate value creation on the continent. Equally, the government will need to complement efforts by the private sector through investment in network infrastructure, whilst also addressing non-tariff barriers such as border-post inefficiencies, corruption, and administrative burdens. This is an effort required across the continent,” Siweya said.
But Lambert Botha, of Hilton Lambert Practitioners of Trade Law, flagged that government needed inputs from relevant agriculture stakeholders on South Africa, including key markets that needed to be targeted for reciprocal treatment. He also said the government needed to be alerted on restrictive conditions that South African exporters of these services were experiencing in other markets.
Botha said that while the elimination of tariffs went a long way, doing business in sub-Saharan Africa was not easy, but certain initiatives could become easier.