The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) commemorated Africa Day by organizing a conference on the theme Pioneer of Inclusive Economic Recovery and Free Trade in Africa: Levers to Build the Africa We Want.
Africa Day is celebrated on May 25 each year across the African continent to celebrate the creation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), predecessor of the African Union (AU). On May 25, 1963, the OAU was established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with 32 countries. More countries have joined over time, with South Africa becoming the 53rd member in May 1994, after apartheid ended. In 2002 in Durban, the organization was remodeled and renamed UA. Africa Day is also an opportunity to reflect on the socio-economic development of the continent and its efforts to find peace and stability.
The main focus of the NCOP conference was the recently promulgated African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, an economic integration program for the continent, which aims to promote intra-African trade and investment between African countries.
In her opening speech at the virtual conference, NCOP Vice President Sylvia Lucas said that thanks to AfCFTA, the African continent is finally on a growth trajectory and unified in a common goal of collectively reversing the legacy of Europe’s scramble for Africa’s wealth.
“If effectively implemented, the accord will promote and advance the achievement of sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development across the continent. It will also serve as a vehicle for advancing gender equality and enabling structural transformation of States Parties, ”said Ms. Lucas. She added that the agreement should be recognized as the most important trade agreement since the World Trade Agreement in 1994.
The Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Development, Mr. Fikile Majola, delivered the keynote address at the conference. He told the session that Africa Day is an opportunity to reflect on common commitments for the renewal of the African continent for the benefit of all its peoples. “The theme of today’s event calls on us to move swiftly towards building a solid foundation for Africa’s inclusive growth, and the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement further provides us with the platform to advance that goal, ”he said.
Mr Majola believes that the ratification of the AfCFTA agreement by 54 of the 55 African countries is a major achievement for the continent, which will connect an estimated 1.3 billion people to a combined gross domestic product of $ 3.4 trillion. Americans.
The promotion of intra-African trade, according to the Deputy Minister, is a fundamental factor for sustainable economic development, job creation and Africa’s integration into the world economy. “This economic flagship seeks to address the challenges of Africa’s low participation rate in the global economy and world trade, which stands at 3%, despite the fact that Africa represents around 16% of the population. global, ”said Mr. Majola.
AfCFTA brings the continent closer to realizing the vision of an integrated market and creating a base for increasing intra-African trade. However, Mr. Majola warned that the continent’s full potential will not be realized if we do not address the challenges posed by poor infrastructure, small and fragmented markets, underdeveloped production structures and inadequate economic diversification.
“We need to complement and consolidate the African Union’s parallel work on the pillars of infrastructure and industrial development, strengthening supply capacity to take advantage of more open African markets,” he said. “The success of ACFTA depends on our collective efforts and coordinated action to effectively implement the program and realize the vision our ancestors presented to us decades ago.”
Gauteng Provincial Whip at NCOP and former South African Ambassador to Libya, Syria and Lebanon, Mr. Mohammed Dangor, delivered a speech on peacekeeping in Africa and the possible threat of conflict for the trade deal . He said peace and stability are crucial for economic development, as investors and innovators will not invest in countries that are unstable due to civil and regional wars.
“One of the main threats and obstacles to the successful implementation of the agreement is our continent’s history of war and conflict, which results in constant political and economic instability. Political instability leads to instability. economic, ”said Mr. Dangor.
Africa has succeeded in securing political emancipation from colonialism and apartheid. However, the battle for economic liberation has been difficult. “ Our pan-African founding fathers correctly analyzed that for there to be true liberation we need economic liberation and to achieve economic liberation we need economic unity and the integration of Africa. If we are to achieve the goals of economic development and integration in Africa, we must meet our goals of silencing the guns. And as a country, we must use all our resources and energies bilaterally and multinational to focus on ending conflicts where they currently exist and ensuring that foreign policy remains oriented towards ending conflicts – management, conflict resolution and resolution, ”added Mr. Dangor.
Professor Vusi Gumede, Faculty of Economics, Development and Business, University of Mpumalanga, said AfCFTA faces internal and external threats, as well as other challenges that hamper efforts political integration in Africa. He suggested that policy coordination is essential for free trade. “Africa’s socio-economic development relies on clear policies and their coordination, and the most important policies requiring coordination relate to the management of inflation, the exchange rate and the money supply,” the Minister said. professor Gumede.