Statement delivered by Minister Pandor during the Virtual Meeting of the 13th Extra-Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union on the AfCFTA held on 5 December 2020

Your Excellency, President Ramaphosa, the Chairperson of the African Union,
Your Majesties, Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
Excellencies and Heads of Delegations,
Excellency, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission,
Distinguished Guests,

Mr Chairman, allow me to express my delegation’s appreciation to you for the sterling leadership of this important meeting.

Let me assure you of my delegation’s support and cooperation.

On behalf of the Government of the Republic of South Africa and indeed the people of our country, we extend fraternal greetings to you all the leaders of Africa present in this meeting.

We would have been honoured and privileged to host this august Assembly in our city of Johannesburg, unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to hold this meeting virtually.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The 13th Extra-Ordinary Summit on the AfCFTA, represents a huge milestone for you our leaders, it is a great moment for our people throughout the Continent who have been yearning for the economic integration of this great Continent. The decision to start trading under the AfCFTA on 1 January 2021, which will be adopted today will be etched in the annals of history of the Continent as a bold step towards the attainment of our vision: Agenda 2063, the Africa We Want. It will also signal our determination to increase manufacturing and industrial capacity so that we trade in African goods and products, produced in Africa. As the largest African investor in other African countries, South Africa hopes to build on this and mobilise resources for industrial investment.

Mr Chairperson, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

In less than 25 days from today, the ideas and the vision of a united, economically integrated and independent Continent, which our founding fathers of the OAU declared 70 years ago, will come into fruition.

My delegation wishes to express our profound appreciation to the champion of the AfCFTA, President Mahamadou. I would like to pay tribute to the African Ministers of Trade (AMOT) and Council of Ministers (CoM) for their determination and perseverance in ensuring that we achieve the mandate that we set ourselves in February 2020. I wish to extend my profound appreciation to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, HE Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, and his team as well as to the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA, HE Mr Wamkele Mene, who have all worked hard to prepare for this day.

Mr Chairperson, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

As we adopt the decision to finally start trading under the AfCFTA, I wish to reaffirm my delegation’s commitment to the implementation of the AfCFTA.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We need to jointly send a strong message about our commitment to the AfCFTA not only to our people but to the entire international community. I want to appeal to all Member States that have not done so, to speedily submit their tariff offers as soon as possible within the remaining 25 days of 2020, that is by 31 December, 2020.

Mr Chairperson, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The private sector and our strategic partners have played a critical role since the start of the negotiations of the AfCFTA and, we are looking forward to continuing the partnership even more so when trading under the AfCFTA begins in earnest.

Mr Chairperson, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The COVID-19 pandemic has strangely reinvigorated and unleashed our unique ethos of Pan-Africanism and solidarity, giving us the courage to fight and defeat this threat to our wellbeing. Our energies should now turn to robust economic recovery throughout Africa.

As we embark on the path to economic recovery, we must use the start of trade as an opportunity to reboot our economies, boost our intra-Africa trade and speedup our infrastructure development, as one of the major drivers of economic development.

Mr Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

South Africa for its part, has worked tirelessly together with other State Parties of the AfCFTA, to ensure that all the required legal and procedural processes are concluded in time to roll out the AfCFTA on 1 January 2021. Our customs authorities have worked with others on the Continent to be ready for trade. We are working on an African auto pact to ensure that components will be produced in the rest of the continent for use in our auto industry.

The successful implementation of the AfCFTA and the decisions that we will be adopting this afternoon depend on us working together in the spirit of unity and solidarity. Our vision as espoused in the founding document of the OAU and which has been recalibrated in Agenda 2063 of 2013 will be given a practical expression in 1 January 2021, as we start to trade under the AfCFTA.

Finally, I wish to draw the attention of the Secretariat to paragraph 10 of the draft decision which requires amendment to properly reflect the discussions and decisions of the Executive Council. The correct decision in para 10 should read as follows:

“Further approves the recommendations of AMOT that the outstanding work on rules of origin, trade in goods and trade in services be concluded before the end of June 2021.”

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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