Dear South African colleagues:
In my inaugural address, which I delivered on Africa Day two years ago, I said that South Africa is determined to work with all the countries of our continent towards a future of growth, opportunity and shared prosperity.
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I said that our fortune as a country is inextricably linked to that of our neighboring countries.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, which coincided with our term as President of the African Union, our focus has been to respond to the impact of the pandemic on human health, society and economies.
South Africa, for example, was instrumental in establishing the Africa Medical Supply Platform to enable countries to procure personal protective equipment and medical supplies, as well as the Africa Vaccine Procurement Task Force, which has ensured million vaccines for the continent.
As the AU Champion for Covid-19 Response, we continue to play an active role within AU structures to support the continental effort against the pandemic.
As we continue to fight the virus, our focus is also on a sustainable economic recovery.
As part of our economic diplomacy efforts, we are paying renewed attention to promoting trade and investment with countries on our continent.
That is why this week I will visit four West African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.
These are countries with which we have strategic partnerships and they are markets in which several South African companies operate. In addition to ministers and government officials, I will be accompanied by a delegation of businessmen representing sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, construction, consumer goods, renewable energy, health and pharmaceuticals.
Earlier this year, one of the most important milestones in the quest for African economic integration was reached when trade officially began under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This presents an immense opportunity for the export of South African goods and services to the continent.
The United Nations estimates that the market created under the AfCFTA is around 1.3 billion people with a combined gross domestic project of $ 3.4 billion.
The successful celebration of the Intra-African Trade Fair in Durban earlier this month was part of the effort to promote greater trade between our country and others on the continent and help realize the promise of the AfCFTA. An estimated $ 36 billion worth of deals were concluded at the Intra-African Trade Fair, in which more than 80 South African companies participated.
During my visits to Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal over the next week, we will see how to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the AfCFTA to expand the footprint of South African companies on the continent and how we can better support those companies already operating in other African countries.
We will also see how companies from those countries can find trade and investment opportunities here in South Africa.
The state visit to Nigeria will coincide with the tenth session of our Binational Commission and will reflect the progress made in advancing trade and investment between our two countries. In particular, we will analyze how to support business expansion and job creation in both countries.
Ghana is another key strategic partner for South Africa and there are currently more than 200 South African companies operating there.
Over the past decade, these companies have been involved in large-scale projects in Ghana that represent more than $ 1 billion in capital investment.
Two South African banks, Investec and Rand Merchant Bank, have been involved in financing massive infrastructure projects such as road rehabilitation and construction, sanitary infrastructure improvements and railroad construction.
South African companies also have a strong presence in the Ivory Coast. MTN, Standard Bank, Multichoice, Sanlam, Investec and the Development Bank of Southern Africa are some of the companies with significant investments in the country.
I will participate in an Economic Forum with representatives of companies from South Africa and the Ivory Coast, where we will discuss opportunities in existing and emerging sectors, such as renewable energy.
In Senegal, we will discuss how to facilitate greater trade and investment between our two countries. There are currently South African companies operating in the energy and wildlife tourism sectors, among others, and several South African companies have expressed interest in entering the infrastructure construction space.
In all these visits, we will seek to build trade and investment relationships that benefit growth, development and employment in each country.
For too long, African countries have focused our eyes on business and investment opportunities in markets beyond the continent, such as Europe, Asia and North America.
For the AfCFTA to be a success, we must strengthen existing trade relations with the countries closest to our country and forge new ones.
Restoring and rebuilding our respective economies is as important as fighting the health effects of Covid.
We hope that these upcoming visits will not only strengthen fraternal ties with our neighboring countries on the continent, but that this will translate into new opportunities for South African companies, new markets for our products and job creation for our people.
Similarly, we hope that companies from the countries we are visiting will forge partnerships with South African companies and find opportunities to invest and trade in South Africa.