The successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA) in May appears to have been put at risk by the recent wave of xenophobia in South Africa.
This was disclosed by former Education Minister, Oby Ezekwesili.
The former World Bank Vice-President, Africa Division, echoed this sentiment on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa. The event was held in Cape Town, South Africa from Wednesday, September 4th to Friday, September 6th 2019.
“The mood towards migrants in South Africa threatens the entire free trade agreement. You cannot build a free trade area under those conditions,” Ezekwesili said.
The outspoken Ezekwesili has been one of the most vocal voices behind the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) advocacy group. She affirmed that the South African government’s conspiracy of silence holds a bigger threat to free trade on the continent.
“The South African government looked away while our citizens were maimed, attacked and killed. They refuse to address the problem of xenophobia and allow the myth to continue that migrants are the cause of economic problems in the country.
“Yet it is a well-documented fact that migration can enhance economic growth in a country. Do they know how many ‘illegal immigrants’ in South Africa are teachers?
“The South African government owes the Nigerian people an apology,” Ezekwesili declared.
Meanwhile, Ezekwesili’s position seems to have found concurrence among one of South Africa’s top ministers, Tito Mboweni. Equally important, Mboweni is South Africa’s Minister of Finance.
Hatred of xenophobia must be consigned to past, says SA Finance Minister
Mboweni noted that the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade agreement in May is the biggest thing to happen in Africa post colonialism.
“I hope our leadership lead in popularising this agreement in the different countries so it’s understood by every border post official, manufacturer, truck driver and editor so we can get the message across. It’s a huge development in Africa,” Mboweni said.
Mboweni, who stood in for President Cyril Ramaphosa, affirmed that Africans must be allowed to settle wherever they please. Further, he declared that the hatred of xenophobia must be confined to the rubbish-heap of history.
“As an African I should be allowed to settle wherever I want to settle. African solidarity is key; living together as Africans is key. If a Nigerian wants to live in Johannesburg, he or she should be free to do so. These are artificial barriers that we have created, and this hatred must be a thing of the past.”
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA) has been signed by 54 of Africa’s 55 countries and ratified by 27. The development makes it the largest trade group in the world since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.
Now in its operational phase, the agreement requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods. As a result, this would allow free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent.
Also, the UN Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52% by 2022.
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