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Media statement: KZN entrepreneurs off to Intra-African Trade Fair

2023-11-13 09:46:12

As the government of KwaZulu-Natal, we recognise the critical role of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement in accelerating economic growth, for the province. This is why the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) has mandated Trade & Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN) to facilitate the participation of 22 SMMEs in Africa’s largest business networking and trade event, the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF 2023), taking place in Cairo, Egypt from 9 - 15 November 2023.

We are grateful for the support of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic), the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and Transnet Port Terminals. Your partnership as fellow state entities, entrenches the South African government’s commitment to support the private sector, particularly small to medium businesses and entrepreneurs. This is in line with the Economic Recovery Plan through which we aim to reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality. SMMEs also have an important role to play in facilitating economic transformation and empowerment.

It is worth noting that all the participants are historically disadvantaged, and the majority are women. I am also pleased to note that some of the companies with us today are township and rural-based enterprises and their success will go a long way to create jobs and inspire others to not only go into business but to grow their business in these areas.

 Status quo In 2022, the value of goods exported from South Africa to the rest of Africa amounted to approximately R490 billion, of which KZN accounted for 10.6%. However, the country still has in excess of R236 billion in untapped export potential within the continent. This presents opportunities for local manufacturers and SMMEs to exploit, in order to drive export-led growth and advance import substitution industrialisation. Part of the challenge is the high cost of trade within Africa, which has increased in recent years, despite a considerable decline in intra-African tariffs.

 Connectivity, particularly by air, is another challenge. It is critical for boosting intra-Africa trade and tourism. As part of efforts to remedy this, South Africa is a signatory to the AU’s Single African Air Transport Market, to promote connectivity within Africa by creating a single unified air transport market, to encourage economic integration and growth. At a provincial level, EDTEA and its stakeholders, through Durban Direct, are working to ensure increased direct connectivity to KwaZulu-Natal. Connectivity is a priority for the province as we are strategically located as the gateway to the rest of Africa, being home to two major ports and an international airport, which are crucial for global market access.

 As hosts of the previous IATF, we understand the strategic nature of the platform and based on the economic spin-offs derived from the 2021 trade show in Durban, the decision to afford this opportunity to a substantial business delegation to the third instalment of this biennial event became evident. Projections for IATF 2023 indicate that there will be 1600 exhibitors from 75 countries, and 35 000 visitors. Approximately $43 billion in trade and investment leads are expected to be concluded at the event.

 IATF offers access to market opportunities for businesses, thus penetrating and growing the export market for local goods and services. This is further supported through different interventions provided by the provincial government together with its strategic partners, aimed at encouraging the broadening of business strategies for our entrepreneurs to retain and expand these market opportunities. Taking guidance from Trade & Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN), who have thoroughly selected the participants and ensured adequate representation, I am confident that the entrepreneurs departing for Egypt are well-capacitated to maximise their exposure to this opportunity, seal lucrative business deals and make valuable business linkages.

 IATF is organised by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in collaboration with the African Union Commission and the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) Secretariat. African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement IATF is aimed at connecting African markets as envisioned by the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement and was established for the very purpose of supporting its implementation.

The products these entrepreneurs are taking to Cairo include skincare, automotive, building and construction components, cleaning and health products, ICT services, furniture, textiles and fashion. It is encouraging to see such a diverse range of products manufactured here in KZN, it bodes well for efforts toward narrowing the gap in unrealised export potential. This will become increasingly critical as the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement is expected to stimulate the demand for South African and KZN products from neighbouring countries and subsequently the rest of the continent. South Africa may have been overtaken by Nigeria and Egypt as the largest economies on the continent, however we have the advantage of being the most industrialised country in Africa, and we can therefore leverage this to deepen trade.

Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement will connect 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined GDP of US $3.4 trillion and eliminate barriers to trade between African countries which will unlock Africa’s economic potential by stimulating industrialisation, creating jobs and promoting investment, leading to the emergence of the continent as a global economic powerhouse.

 It is the realisation of the vision of leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s liberator and one of the founding members of what is now the African Union, who said and I quote; “ It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world,” close quote. An Africa united for the benefit of Africans. I wish our entrepreneurs all the best in Cairo, and I am confident that this investment in your business will yield positive returns for the province.

Nihambe kahle. You are in good hands with TIKZN. It is their mandate to facilitate trade by assisting you as local companies access new markets. Just last week, TIKZN took 12 fashion and accessory designers to Africa London Fashion Week. Their uniquely KZN designs were on the catwalks of one of the fashion capitals of the world. We are very pleased that one of our designers, Senzeni Silungile Mokoena of Slu by Sluvin, who is here today, was awarded for Excellence in Fashion at the Black History and Lifestyle Gala Dinner at Africa London Fashion Week. Congratulations sisi.

 This year alone, TIKZN has taken KZN-based businesses on outward missions and exhibitions at some of the biggest trade events including Decorex in Cape Town and in Joburg, the House and Garden show here in Durban,  SAITEX Africa, and outside of our borders to the Maputo International Fair, Kenyan Food Event, Rwanda Trade Fair and business to business meetings on the sidelines of World Routes in Turkey.

SMMEs like yourselves are the lifeblood of a thriving economy, and your resilience and vitality are key to our nation's economic recovery. We are committed to continue to support you so that your businesses grow, creating more employment and drive economic growth in our communities.

I thank you.

Delivered on behalf of MEC by Acting Head of Department, Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Dr Thandeka Ellenson.

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