Trade industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said South African businesses will soon benefit from preferential trading under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Patel was speaking in Durban on Tuesday during a council of ministers meeting which was also attended by ministers responsible for trade, the diplomatic corps, heads of businesses and media from across the continent.
Twelve countries, including South Africa, have finalised their legal modalities to enable trade to commence in thousands of product lines, ranging from food and beverages to steel products and equipment, taxis, pharmaceutical and personal care products, chemical products and household goods such as fridges and televisions.
President Cyril Ramaphosa will be at Pier 1 at the Port of Durban, officially launch the first container of goods loaded onto a ship destined for markets covered by the start of trade under the AfCFTA.
Patel said South Africa was committed to leading successful discussions over the agreement.
“We are explicitly aware of the expectations of citizens across the African continent and an integrated Africa must provide these opportunities for development and prosperity.”
The key objectives of the meetings is to showcase South Africa’s trade under AfCFTA and how African businesses can take advantage of the liberalised trade preferences, demonstrating the processes involved, while highlighting how governments of member states and the secretariat are ready to support the private sector.
The key message of the event is to illustrate that companies can trade under AfCFTA to expand their markets within a legally binding framework.
“We have made significant progress with resolving the modalities of the AfCFTA,” Patel said.
He said they have also taken into account the views of countries on the continent that are hoping to join the agreement.
“Winning the deal is only the first step, implementing the deal is the work of a generation.
“We now need to work closely with each other to work out more trade agreements and then extend this to services.
“Tomorrow, the legal arrangements will commence that will bring some of the Southern African Customs Union into the start of trade under preferences.
“From tomorrow, I am advised there are 12 countries ready and able to trade under the AfCFTA,” Patel said.
Patel said trade implementations will not come without challenges.
“We must have patience to work through the concerns, the glitches and the challenge.”
AfCFTA secretariat, Wamkele Mene, said countries in the agreement have high expectations of what is possible and what the organisation needs to do.
“Our private sector is fully engaged and the private sector strategy has been developed and adopted up and down the length and breadth of our continent.
“The private sector expresses a very useful commitment to work with you in the implementation of this agreement,” Mene said.
He said young people had shown great enthusiasm in the agreement and its potential in increasing investment.
“So we have very strong supporters in the private sector, civil society and the protocol that you have adopted on women in trade has been very, very positive.”