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Intra-African trade 'a matter of urgency'

15 December 2011

Promoting intra-African trade and investment is a matter of urgency, and businesses will have to pay more attention to African markets in order to become more competitive and sustainable, President Jacob Zuma told the South Africa-Mozambique Business Forum in Maputo on Wednesday.

"The continent is rich in natural resources but above all, it has the resourcefulness of its people. The focus, therefore, must be on creating conditions that will release the creativity and productivity of the African people," Zuma told the forum.

Zuma was in Mozambique for a two-day state visit aimed at further strengthening co-operation between the two countries in trade and investment, energy, mining, agriculture, communications, water, environmental affairs, arts and culture and science and technology.

Market of one-billion consumers

African leaders have been talking about promoting intra-African trade in recognition of the fact that the African market of one-billion consumers can be a powerful engine for growth and employment for the continent.

Yet, despite the introduction of free trade areas, customs unions and common markets within the regions, the level of intra-African trade remains relatively low.

Infrastructure is a key enabler of trade and economic integration in Africa but is severely lacking.

"What is required is that we do things that go beyond the ordinary," Zuma said. "It cannot be business as usual on the African continent. In this regard, our continent needs to not only be characterized as a potential consumer market, but also ensure that we are at the forefront of production and innovation on our continent."

Zuma called for international collaboration in tackling Africa's infrastructure deficit and partnerships with established economies and the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) group of countries.

'Developmental integration' approach

He also called for a "developmental integration" approach among southern African countries, so as to create sustainable economies of scale and productive economies in the region.

Developmental integration, according to Zuma, places importance on building productive and industrial capacity in economies and addressing supply-side constraints such as limited road, rail, ports and energy infrastructure.

Turning to South Africa's relations with Mozambique, Zuma said that while these were strong, trade levels were still low.

He said the two countries were prepared to tackle the bureaucratic red tape that businesses encountered so as to create a conducive environment for trade and investment to flourish.

He said business has to tackle opportunities in the two economies innovatively, while encouraging investments on both sides to create jobs and help to improve the people's quality of life.

"These must be partnerships that ensure skills development, innovation, capital investments and technology transfer towards positive outcomes for our two economies," Zuma said. "The infrastructure is being created for these opportunities to be utilised."

The President commended projects such as Sasol's R9.2-billion, 865 kilometre gas pipeline that ferries natural gas from the Temane and Pande fields in Mozambique to a distribution network in Secunda in Mpumalanga province.

Source: BuaNews

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