Trade and industry deputy minister Fikile Majola has called for tariff schedules related to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to be finalised ahead of the implementation of the agreement in July.
According to Majola, the tariff schedule listing all products covered by the agreement for tariff liberalisation and the indispensable rules of origin must be done in order to establish a platform on which the benefits of the AfCFTA can be derived for both South Africa and its African counterparts.
Majola was speaking at an economic policy dialogue held last week in Cape Town and told those in attendance that the current administration has a responsibility to work with other African Union Member States to finalise the detailed modalities.
“While this policy dialogue aims to discuss the AfCFTA with the intention of determining its bearing on South Africa, it is prudent to give a glimpse into the possible trade and economic spin-offs for our country.
“Though some opinion-makers indicate that the AfCFTA is very ambitious because of the many disparities between the countries’ development stages, especially relating to trade capabilities, infrastructure and administrative frameworks such as competition and intellectual property policies.
“Notwithstanding such deficiencies, we are confident that the potential benefits of the AfCFTA will be significant in increasing intra-Africa trade and foreign direct investment,” said Majola.
The deputy minister also spoke about challenges facing trade on the African continent.
“Africa’s vulnerabilities and limited participation in global trade is a function of its traditional over-dependence on the export of low-value raw materials and commodities, and the import of high-value manufactured goods and services.
“The continent’s full potential will remain unfulfilled, unless we address the challenges of poor infrastructure, small and fragmented markets, underdeveloped production structures and inadequate economic diversification.”
Friday’s session brought together stakeholders from organised business, chief executive officers, academia, organised labour, government departments and civil society.
Western Cape finance and economic opportunities MEC David Maynier said the dialogue provided the province with an opportunity to build on its ambition to become a key trading region for Africa.
“That is why we seek your and the business sector’s inputs so that we can better understand how to make it easier for you to do business across Africa. That is why this dialogue between provincial and national governments and the business sector on the subject of the AfCFTA is going to be so important,” said Maynier.
The AfCFTA, which is expected to come into effect on 1 July 2020, was first conceptualised in January 2012 in Ethiopia.
(Compiled by Kaunda Selisho)