South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel on Friday urged manufacturers and farmers in the country to prepare themselves for opportunities in export markets following the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
AfCFTA came into effect on 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 recognise that industrialisation 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 characterised 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 realise 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 per cent by the year 2022.