CAPE TOWN - The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will be an important step towards rebalancing global trade relations and levelling the playing field for African businesses, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday night.
Speaking at the annual Ubuntu Awards 2020 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, he said that through the AfCFTA "we want to reignite industrialisation, boost intra-African trade, and benefit from the largest common market in the world".
"Our [South Africa's] emissaries for economic diplomacy, many of whom are here this evening, will play an increasingly prominent role," he said.
During South Africa's second term as African Union (AU) chair, the country was committed to strengthening the AU and other continental institutions, such as the Pan African Parliament and the African Peer Review Mechanism.
"We are going to work with the structures of the AU to deepen the unity of our continent, and to advance inclusive growth and sustainable development. This we aim to achieve through supporting integration, industrialisation, economic development, trade and investment," he said.
This would become particularly significant when the AfCFTA became operational later this year.
South Africa would also work to strengthen good governance in Africa. Through the AU Peace and Security Council, the AU Commission, and the collective membership, South Africa would focus efforts on conflict resolution across the continent.
"We will continue to advocate for a fairer, more just, more prosperous and stable world. We remain firm in our commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflict and a multilateral approach to world affairs.
"As a global community we confront common challenges – climate change, migration, disease, human trafficking, terrorism, and hunger – and we should work to address these problems together. No country can hope to achieve lasting peace and prosperity for as long as there are other countries mired in poverty, conflict and chaos.
"We need to work together to strengthen a rules-based, multilateral approach to global governance, trade, conflict resolution, peacekeeping and all other areas of international relations.
"This is the agenda that South Africa will continue to pursue through all international fora in which it participates, from the United Nations to the African Union, and from the G20 to BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa]," Ramaphosa said.