President Jacob Zuma. Photo: Leon Nicholas.

Cape Town - Investment between African countries must become the new economic paradigm for the continent, President Jacob Zuma told an economic conference organised by Bloomberg on Monday.

“Let me emphasise that we cannot expect external partners to appreciate the value of Africa if we as Africans do not. We are therefore working as the African Union to achieve greater levels of intra-Africa investments,” Zuma said in his opening address at the event.

“It is mine and my government's belief that Africa's integration and intra-Africa trade cannot be realised without concerted efforts to invest in Africa's infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.

“Intra-Africa investments should define the new Africa paradigm.”

Zuma said South Africa's investment in other African nations had grown by 57 percent since 2007 and had created 45,000 jobs.

Nigeria, Kenya and increasingly Angola were following this example, he said, but the lack of trade-enabling infrastructure on the continent remained an impediment.

“We discussed this matter at length again at the African Union summit in Ethiopia this past weekend. We recommitted ourselves as African heads of state to continue building cross-border infrastructure to unlock growth and development in our continent.”

The president said talks on a tripartite free trade agreement were proceeding well and would result in the integration of 26 countries in eastern and southern Africa.

This involved a population of nearly 600 million people and a combined GDP of US$1 trillion.

“This market scale could launch a sizeable part of the continent onto a new developmental trajectory,” he said.

The pact is meant to form the basis for an eventual Africa-wide free trade agreement, which would create a single market with a population of more than one billion people.

“Therefore, Africa can only move forward. The prospects are good and the returns promise to be worth the while of investors who wish to grab this opportunity,” he said. - Sapa