Rob Davies. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Rob Davies. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

Trade and industry minister Rob Davies has urged local companies to consider the rest of Africa as a key market, especially for trade in value-added products.

Davies was speaking at the launch of the South African pavilion in Cairo, Egypt this week during the inaugural Intra-Africa Trade Fair (IATF).

He said the trade fair provides a platform for sharing trade, investment and market information, and enables buyers and sellers, investors and countries to meet, discuss and conclude business deals.

Intra-African trade remains very low compared to other major regions in the world such as the EU and Asia.

In July, SA joined almost 50 other countries on the continent in signing the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement that aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.

With about 1.2-billion people on the continent, the agreement is set to create one of the largest free trade market zones in the world.

Davies said although total trade among African countries is still low compared to other continents, he is still hopeful that platforms such the IATF will pave the way to increase trade in Africa. The IATF is an excellent opportunity to position SA to grow export volumes, especially into the rest of the continent and to promote the export of goods and services, said Davies.

“We believe that during the course of the IATF, South African exhibitors will find trading partners with the Egyptian business community and hopefully with other African countries too,” he said. “And I am also glad to see, in particular, that so many of these companies are here under the banner of the export councils because I think we realise that through these councils, we are able to get our business people to export into other markets.” 

Egypt is SA’s largest trading partner in North Africa, with total trade between the two countries being R4bn in 2017.

It is anticipated that the IATF, which opened on Tuesday and will run until December 17, will host at least 1,000 exhibitors from across Africa and beyond, with more than 70,000 visitors, generating in excess of $70bn in trade deals.

The president of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Benedict Oramah, said the signing of the CFTA had sent a strong message to the world that Africa is ready to chart a new path, “a path to economic independence and a willingness to look inward for industrial growth”.

Said Oramah, “We need to implement initiatives that will add meaning to that singular event; initiatives that will catalyse a strong production [and] industrial base for production of export manufacturing; initiatives that will improve our knowledge of, and access to, trade and investment information; and initiatives that will facilitate movement of goods across borders in competitive terms.”