Political instability in a number of African countries remains a major concern as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) nations look to unlock opportunities through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Secretary-general of the AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene, raised the point that political stability was an essential feature in establishing market certainty and predictability.
He said recent goings-on in Sudan and Niger were very worrisome and that the leadership of the African Union was clear and firm that the re-emergence of unconstitutional changes of government in West Africa was unacceptable.
"The practical impact when these instabilities happen is on informal traders, and small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs) are shut out of markets. All this has a political and economic impact, and we have to redouble our efforts and do everything we can to restore political stability.
"We will have no trade if we have no political stability on the continent," Mene said.
During one of the panel discussions at the BRICS Business Forum in Sandton, Johannesburg, panellists discussed ways to build a partnership between BRICS nations and the rest of Africa for mutually beneficial opportunities for increased trade, investment, and infrastructure development.
The panel, which consisted of representatives from BRICS nations, looked at elevating BRICS coordination and cooperation to support the AfCFTA momentum and the role a successful AfCFTA can play in shifting trade, investment, and development dynamics for Africa.
Mene said so far, 47 countries have ratified the agreement and essentially accepted to significantly reduce barriers to inter-African trade.
"Africa trades more with the rest of the world than with itself, but Africa has the potential to trade globally," he said.
While Mene noted that infrastructure was still a very big challenge, he said the starting point was to introduce laws and regulations that eliminated these barriers, including reducing the cost of trade.
Dr Stavros Nicolaou of the BRICS Business Council, SA Chapter, said that young tech-savvy consumers would be the productive workforce of Africa going into the future.
Onkar Kanwar, of the BRICS Business Council, India Chapter, and chairman of Apollo Tyres, said it was important to see how countries can deploy their youth throughout Africa to make them more employable.
He said there were a lot of opportunities to upskill the youth. Similarly, he said not all youth in India were good at education, so skills development was offered to them, which resulted in an increase in their exports and a decrease in their imports.
"We had the same problem in India, where we were importing so much. Now we are a surplus nation. The same can be done here, and it is very important to take some lessons. These are some of the basic things you have to do because food security is very important," Kanwar said.