The establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) can be a game-changer for the local economy, providing a massive market for South African goods and services, says newly appointed Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel.

“If we can get the institutions and infrastructure right and build a deep business and social partnership in South Africa, the AfCFTA can add many billions of rands to the GDP, create large numbers of new industrial jobs, attract and expand investment and strengthen the economy,” Patel said.

He noted that exports to the rest of the continent already account for about a quarter million of South African jobs.

“We will work in close partnership with investors and the local business community to realise this potential,” Patel said on Wednesday.

In a step to boost the newly-approved AfCFTA, South Africa will be participating in the two-day eighth meeting of African Ministers of Trade (AMOT), which will be held in Ethiopia from Friday.

South Africa will be represented by Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Fikile Slovo Majola.

The 8th AMOT meeting will consider key recommendations from the meeting of Senior Trade Officials as well as to consider and agree on the outstanding issues, which include Rules of Origin, tariff offers and Trade in Services.

The outcomes of the ministers’ meeting will be tabled at the Assembly of Heads of States of the African Union, which will take place in Niger on 7 July 2019.

The Assembly of Heads of States of the African Union will launch the operational phase of the AfCFTA.

The AfCFTA was launched on 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, by the Heads of State and Government of the African Union as a comprehensive trade agreement with strong economic developmental objectives for Africa.

Majola said thus far, 52 members of the AU have signed the Agreement and 24 members have ratified it.

“South Africa deposited the instrument of ratification during the 32nd Ordinary Session of the AU Heads of State and Government on 10 February 2019. The AfCFTA entered into force on 30 May 2019,” said Majola.

As a flagship project of the African Union’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, the AfCFTA aims to build an integrated market in Africa that will see a pool of over a billion people with a combined GDP of approximately US$3.3 trillion.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the AfCFTA will increase intra-Africa trade from the current 10%-16% to approximately 52% by the year 2022.

Majola said the AfCFTA would give South Africa an opportunity to expand to new markets in North and West Africa, beyond the SADC region.

“This will provide South African exporters and investors with much needed legal certainty and predictability of markets across Africa,” said Majola

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