Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Pretoria: President Cyril Ramaphosa says stronger collaborative ties between South Africa and Kenya can have a great impact on Africa’s drive to economic integration through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

President Ramaphosa was speaking during the South African- Kenya business forum held alongside the official State Visit of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyetta.

“As two leading economies in our respective regions [Southern and Eastern Africa], South Africa and Kenya have a key role to play in driving continental integration.

“Our existing regional value chains can be integrated by deepening bilateral economic relations, and specifically by more direct collaboration in industrial and infrastructure projects that are of mutual interest,” President Ramaphosa said on Tuesday.

The President reflected on the two countries’ long held history in trade and investment with South Africa ranking in the top five of Kenya’s main investors.

South African companies have invested some R6.84 billion in Kenya; creating at least 2700 jobs in the process.

The President said this makes the East African country a significant partner in that region.

“Kenya is South Africa’s largest trading partner in Africa outside of the Southern African Development Community and South Africa is the biggest exporter of goods to Kenya on the continent. The depth and breadth of this trade and investment relationship makes Kenya a key partner for South Africa in East Africa,” he said.

He added that given the opportunity, South African companies could play a significant role in the realisation of President Kenyatta’s Big Four plan “which has a specific focus on the sectors of manufacturing, food security, universal healthcare and affordable housing”.

He said the two countries’ trade relationship must place more emphasis on value adding sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture.

Trade balance

The President highlighted that the two countries need to share a more balanced trade relationship, which is currently skewed in the favour of South Africa.

“We need to set ambitious targets for increasing imports from Kenya over the next few years. As South Africa, we are committed to improving the levels of intra-African investments by facilitating Kenyan investments into South Africa and by investing in Kenya’s infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities.

“We call on Kenyan companies…to reach out to their South African counterparts as they search for new markets for their goods and services,” he said.

On an international scale, President Ramaphosa emphasised that the African continent must provide more goods and services to the world instead of just raw materials.

“African hands must make the goods and provide the services that Africans use. We must correct the distorted trade relationships that exists between African countries and the rest of the world.

“We can no longer simply be a supplier of raw materials to the world and importers of consumer and capital goods. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) provides an opportunity for Africa to redefine its relationship with the rest of the world and meet the needs of our people for decent work and better standards of living,” he said.

The President told the business forum delegates that through the AfCFTA, Africa is beginning to realise true integration.

“The AfCFTA is about using the combination of the continent’s raw materials and industrial capacity, finance, services and infrastructure to produce quality finished goods for local and global markets. It is about creating a market large enough to attract investors from across the world to set up their production facilities on the continent.

“The vision of African integration is closer than it has ever been,” he said.

For this to come to fruition, more cooperation is needed not only between the two countries, but with the rest of the continent as well.

“We need governments, investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders from different African countries to come together like this, to explore new partnerships and to reach agreements that drive new trade and investment.

“By working together, by recognising the immense potential of our two countries and of the continent that we share, we can build a more inclusive, more resilient and more prosperous future for all our people.”