In marking Africa Day, President Cyril Ramaphosa says the adoption of the Continental Free Trade Area shows the commitment by African leaders to follow in the footsteps of its forebears and unite in achieving the continent’s development goals.
“We are irrevocably committed to the realisation of the goals of Agenda 2063, Africa’s blueprint and vision for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent — the Africa we want.
“Pursuant to this objective, we recognise the adoption just two months ago of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as an iconic milestone along our journey towards an eventual African Common Market, as envisioned in the 1991 Abuja Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community,” said the President
He was speaking at a luncheon, where he hosted Diplomatic Corps at the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria in celebration of Africa Day. The day is celebrated annually on May 25 to mark the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union.
The President said the AfCFTA will enable Africa to significantly boost intra-Africa trade, improve economies of scale and establish an integrated market.
“It will also be a catalyst for industrial development, placing Africa on a path to exporting value-added products, improving Africa’s competitiveness both in its own markets and globally,” said the President.
Leveraging on a population of over one billion people, the AfCFTA is set to create a market of approximately US$2.6 trillion.
Insecurity on the continent
Reflecting on challenges still faced by the continent, the President called on his fellow African brothers and sisters to choose democracy through “the ballot instead of the bullet.”
“By the end of this year, 20 countries in Africa would have held presidential and parliamentary elections. This impressive number of countries choosing the ballot instead of the bullet to determine its leaders is a clear indication of political progress, and the deepening of democracy on the continent.
“We wish all the fraternal countries that will be holding elections this year, a peaceful, free and fair ballot that represents the will of the people,” said President Ramaphosa.
He said the spectre of conflict in Africa has declined dramatically, and most Africans are more secure than ever.
“The peace dividend experienced by a number of countries, previously stricken by conflict such as Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda – has translated into unprecedented levels of economic growth for these countries.
“We, however, remain deeply concerned by the ongoing insecurity in the east of the DRC, in the Sahel region, including in Libya, Somalia, and the ongoing conflict in South Sudan,” said the President.
Responding to the President’s call for leaders on the continent to unite, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Democratic Republic of Congo Ambassador Bene M’Poko said they stand ready to form strategic alliances.
“We believe through constructive dialogue with policy makers of this country, we can be your strategic partners not only in the design but also in the implementation of your foreign policy,” said M’Poko.
With South Africa gearing to assume presidency of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) formation when it hosts the 10th BRICS Summit in July, President Ramaphosa assured the Diplomatic Corps that he will champion African interests.
“South Africa will continue to champion the interests of Africa within the BRICS formation and will, in this regard, convene an outreach session with African leaders.
“We believe this session will provide a platform for discussing ways and means of deepening cooperation with BRICS countries, including providing support for Continental industrialization and infrastructure development programmes,” he said.