‘Africa Trade fair is a powerful expression of SA’s commitment to deepening continental integration,’ says KZN Premier
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Cape Town – KwaZulu-Natal will host the second Intra-Africa Trade Fair (IATF) – a key event aimed at boosting trade in Africa.
The IATF will take place between November 15 - 21 and this year's theme will focus on the newly-launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) - a single market for goods and services across 55 countries, aimed at boosting trade and investment.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said in a statement on Saturday that the trade fair is a powerful expression of South Africa’s commitment to deepening continental integration and strengthening the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“The previous IATF in Egypt attracted over 1000 exhibitors and 2500 delegates from more than 45 countries. Another significant outcome was that US$32 million in trade and investment deals were concluded in Cairo,” said Zikalala.
The Premier added that this week’s gathering in Durban holds similar promise in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic and the global economic downturn.
He said that both government and business on the continent place enormous emphasis on trade, especially regional commerce in creating a better life for all African people.
“AfCTA as a legal instrument of the African Union seeks to accelerate intra-African trade and boost our continent’s trading position in the global market. It also expresses the pan-Africanist ideal of speaking with one voice and a single policy position in trade negotiations with external parties.”
Zikala said that voice is amplified by the fact that AfCTA is the world’s largest trading bloc since the establishment of the World Trade Organization.
The free trade area covers a market of 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product of US$2.5 trillion across the 55 member states of the African Union.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that AfCTA will boost intra-African trade by 52.3% once import duties and non-tariff barriers are eliminated.
“Our continent’s population is projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, translating into 26% of the world’s projected working age population,” said Zikalala.
Zikalala added that Africa’s great human resource is its youthful population compared to the ageing demographic profile of much of the developed world, adding that like in KwaZulu-Natal, there is a strong imperative across the continent to create jobs and economic opportunities for the throngs of young people who enter the continental job market every year.
Beatrice Chaytor of the African Union Commission cites a study that shows that e-commerce on the continent is growing at 40% annually and is expected to grow to over US$300 million by 2025.
Zikalala said there is considerable anticipation that young entrepreneurs will showcase their interventions during the IATF and demonstrate the enormous promise of a single continental market for goods and services driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Youth as a sector have an explicit mention in Article 27 of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Services where state parties are mandated to “improve the export capacity of both formal and informal service suppliers, with particular attention to micro, small and medium size; women and youth service suppliers.”
“As South Africa, we are encouraged by our track record in promoting the continental free trade area and working with like-minded parties in taking decisive action to bring the agreement to fruition. Our active participation in the African Union, Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) among other multilateral fora attest to the value of co-ordinated regional cooperation,” added Zikalala.
At the AfCFTA launch ceremony in January, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa noted that the agreement will fundamentally change the economic fortunes of the continent.
He called on entrepreneurs to seize the abundant opportunities that this historic development presents to explore new markets and build new partnerships.
“As the several thousand IATF delegates and exhibitors gather in Durban, we are confident of the energy, ideas and contract opportunities that will propel the fresh developmental agenda represented by AfCFTA,” said Zikalala.
African News Agency (ANA)