– by Staff Reporter

The promotion of trade between African countries is critical if the continent is to change the distorted trade relationship that exists between African countries and the rest of the world, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

He was speaking at the opening of the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, on Monday.

The week-long event, hosted by the South African government in conjunction with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), provides a platform for linking international buyers, sellers and investors, as well as allowing participants and visitors to profile and share market information and investment opportunities in support of intra-African trade and the economic integration of the continent.

Ramaphosa said Africa should no longer export raw materials, only to import finished goods made with those materials.

“We can no longer have a situation where the resources of Africa provide employment and add value in other economies, while so many of our people live in poverty and conditions of underdevelopment.

“By promoting trade between African countries, we are strengthening the continent’s industrial base and ensuring that we produce goods for ourselves and each other,” he said.

Ramaphosa added that the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the frailty of African economies and, more importantly, it had sent a powerful message to the continent about the dangers of over-reliance on external sources to meet its growing demand for food, medicines and other essential supplies.

“It clearly demonstrated that Africa needs to produce its own food and medicines, to strengthen continental supply chains, and to invest in infrastructure and capacitate African institutions,” he said.

To illustrate the extent of the challenge, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that Africa imports about 94% of its pharmaceutical and medicinal needs from outside the continent at an annual cost of US$16 billion.