South African Deputy President Paul Mashatile has hailed the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) adding that it will "become a game changer to the continent’s growth trajectory."
Mashatile was speaking at the conclusion of the AfCTA business Forum held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, in the Western Cape province.
The three-day forum was attended by various stakeholders including Former Nigerian President and AfCTA champion Mahammadou Issoufou, Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Minister Ahmed Ali Bazi who represented the Chairperson of the African Union as well as President Azali Assoumani, President of the Union of Comoros.
AfCTA is touted to be the world’s largest free trade area and was established in March 2018 as one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063.
It boasts 54 countries of the African Union (AU) as signatories with up to and eight Regional Economic Communities.
To date, the World Bank has indicated that by 2035, the agreement would have created 18 million additional jobs to boost trade and infrastructure projects on the continent.
According to Mashatile, "there exists continental-wide consensus on the need for Africa to reduce structural and regulatory barriers to market entry and to invest in the necessary infrastructure to facilitate intra-African and global trade – more so road and maritime infrastructure. At present, the quality of much of the continent’s maritime, road and railway infrastructure is less than satisfactory. There are few road links, general poor road infrastructure maintenance and limited regional road linkages throughout the continent’s five regions."
He added: "Yet, roads are the predominant mode of transport on the continent, carrying approximately 80% of goods and 90% of passengers. Without this infrastructure, rail and maritime trade cannot realise their full potential. Road transport is therefore an indispensable part of daily African economic activity and critical to facilitating cross-border trade and regional integration."
Mashatile highlighted challenges that continued to undermine progress on the continent such - inefficiencies at border posts saying it is an impediment that the African leaders need to confront and resolve.
In addition to his closing remarks, the Deputy President pointed out that "roads are the predominant mode of transport on the continent, carrying approximately 80% of goods and 90% of passengers. Without this infrastructure, rail and maritime trade cannot realise their full potential."
Mashatile also used the platform to tackle instability and the security crisis that continues to fester on the continent, particularly amid the military conflict in Sudan.
"It is in this context that we reiterate South Africa’s deep concern about the fighting that broke out in the sister African country of Sudan over the weekend between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. We are particularly concerned about rising numbers of civilian loss of life, the destruction of private and public infrastructure, the likely humanitarian disaster that is likely to arise with the entrapment of civilians in their houses with no access to food and other basic necessities. Equally concerning is the impact of the conflict on Sudan’s neighbours," he said.
He added: "We commend the efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to resolve the conflict. In this regard, we wish Presidents Salva Kiir of South Sudan, William Ruto of Kenya and Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti well in their efforts to secure a ceasefire and an immediate commencement of the implementation of the December 5, 2022 framework agreement aimed at returning Sudan to civilian rule to which the belligerents have committed themselves. "