S.Africa encourages manufacturers, farmers to expand exports through intra-African trade agreement

Workers unload a shipment of material into the warehouse at the Prestige Clothing (Pty) Ltd. textile factory, operated by The Foschini Group Ltd., in the Maitland district of Cape Town, South Africa, on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. South African retailers including The Foschini Group and Woolworths Holdings Ltd. are increasing investment in local clothing manufacturers -- both to reduce a dependency on Chinese imports and secure a supply chain thrown into disarray by Covid-19 restrictions. Photographer: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Workers unload a shipment of material into the warehouse in Cape Town, South Africa. Photographer: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg via Getty Images

South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel on Friday called on manufacturers and farmers in the country to prepare themselves for opportunities in export markets as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement came into effect Friday.

Patel, while believing the agreement could lead to more employment opportunities, said it could also help manufacturers in South Africa to expand to new markets available in West, Central and East Africa.

“Trade with the rest of the continent is a critical source of output and jobs growth. African countries recognize that industrialization is critical to the development of the continent,” he said.

Patel said the agreement could potentially transform business in Africa though its impact will not be immediate.

“The new Agreement that comes into effect today will take some time to be fully operational but has the potential to be transformative for Africa, breaking our dependence on a neo-colonial pattern of trade that characterized trade,” he said.

He also said this was a chance to build advanced economies and innovative businesses.

“It will take dedication and disciplined implementation over the next few years to fully realize the benefits,” he added.

The free trade agreement, launched in March 2018 in the Rwandan capital city Kigali, has so far gathered 54 African Union member signatories.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said the African free trade accord has the potential to boost the level of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2022.

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