African Companies Should Prioritize Expansion of Intra-regional Trade in Manufactured Goods
June 30, 2023
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former Commissioner of the African Union Commission, has charged businesses in Africa to grow intra-continental trade in finished goods.
She said: “We need to trade in our own goods… so that in 50 years [when Agenda 2063 is due], we will be able to celebrate free trade and say, I can drive from Cape Town to Cairo and from Djibouti to Senegal.”
Her call comes as the continent implements the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the largest free-trade area by number of member states, and a flagship project of the AU Agenda 2063.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma was speaking at a ceremony held by the Secretariat of the (AfCFTA) in Accra in her honour to championing the AU Agenda 2063 and gender equality.
“Trade is not about raw materials; our colonisers did that and they continue to want to buy raw materials from us. That’s ill, and should stop. It’s something we must work at and fast,” she said.
“Ninety per cent of our goods are transported across the Mediterranean. Who is in control of these processes?” she quizzed, adding that “this is something we must look at.”
She explained that when raw materials were exported, it was the higher-level of jobs that Africa exported, leading to the export of revenue at the detriment of its people and development.
“When we export raw materials, by the time it’s turned into a finished good, it’s probably 10 times or more expensive than the raw materials, and sometimes when they come back, most of us can’t afford them,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
She, therefore, urged businesses to shore up efforts to change such a situation, while encouraging governments on the continent to create the enabling environment for the success of AfCFTA.
On gender issues, the Minister for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities at the Presidency in South Africa, said that: “Our continent cannot develop socially and economically and reach its full potential if we do not invest in women and give them opportunities to explore their potential.
Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, said, “it is important that we honour people once they’re still alive, and recognise their contribution while they’re still with us.”
Mr Mene said the Secretariat decided to honour Dr Dlamini-Zuma because she had contributed immensely in helping to build Africa, and introduced reforms in the AU.
“She ensured that when we talk about gender equality and equality of opportunities in institutions, such as the AfCFTA Secretariat and the AU Commission, it’s not just a slogan, but we see the impact,” he eulogised her.
The Secretary General also acknowledged the effort of women, at the launch of the African Prosperity Network, during the 2023 Afeximbank Annual Meetings in Accra.
He said: “The principal architect of AfCFTA are strong women. We’ve found the moving train; a train that was started by strong women. A moving train whose foundation was already built by strong African women leaders.”
Mr Mene reiterated that the private sector remained critical in the actualisation of the objectives of the intra-trade pact to create jobs, engender innovations, and make Africa competitive on the global market.
He verbalised that the network of private sector that was being built under AfCFTA would create jobs for young Africans, spur on innovation, and put the continent on a path of competitiveness.