President Cyril Ramaphosa says government has put in motion a number of interventions aimed at helping South African companies invest in the continent and participate in the African Continental Free Trade Area.
He said this when he responded to oral questions in the National Assembly on Thursday.
“We want to ensure that our firms, entrepreneurs, small enterprises and workers benefit from the trading opportunities that will arise as the AfCFTA commences to operate.
“Government has a number of interventions to support South Africans that want to trade and do business in other African countries.
The empowerment of black, women and youth-led and owned firms through export readiness and export capacity is at the top of this agenda,” he said.
He said, for example, that government’s National Exporter Development Programme supports both emerging and established exporters to increase the number of South African exporters and effectively grow exports of value-added goods over time.
The President said in the last financial year, 1 029 emerging exporters completed training, of whom 1 006 were black-owned, 494 were women-owned and 227 were youth-owned.
He also said that 88 women-owned companies were assisted to promote their goods and services through various trade promotion and marketing events in the continent.
Between 2014 and 2018, South African firms invested over $10 billion – around R160 billion – in different parts of the continent.
This, the President said, has made South Africa the fifth largest source of foreign direct investment on the continent in value behind the US, France, UK and China.
“Much remains to be done but we believe strongly that Africans have now put the continent on the path to sustained and strong economic growth.
“In many ways, Africa’s colonial past has continued to shape its economic development over recent decades.
“Just as colonial powers extracted the continent’s wealth for their own benefit, enrichment, upliftment and development, today African economies participate in the global economy primarily as a source of minerals and commodities, while the production of higher and value-added manufactured products takes place elsewhere.”
The President said the vision of African leaders today is aimed at breaking this pattern.
“We are determined to build strong and inclusive economies through industrialisation and the beneficiation of the minerals and commodities that are extracted from the African soil in our countries.”
He said the African Continental Free Trade Area is a significant development that will change trade patterns and has the potential to transform African economies.
“It will encourage economic diversification, beneficiation of our minerals and resources and value-addition to seize the opportunities arising from an increasingly open African continental market.
“We expect that in the new year, 2021, preferential trade in Africa will begin with significant product coverage and will be further expanded over the coming years.
“Even prior to the agreement on the Continental Free Trade Area, South Africa had already begun implementing an investment-led trade strategy.
“South Africa has sought to use its outward foreign direct investment in the rest of the continent to encourage balanced growth and localisation.”