Kenya and South Africa on Thursday intensified their efforts to strengthen the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) framework by initiating the first shipment of products under the AfCFTA framework across the African continent.
South Africa led the way by sending a shipment containing refrigerators, paperboard, and steel products destined for the Kenyan market.The momentous step marked a significant moment for the two nations that share cordial bilateral relations.
The launch occurred on the sidelines of the 13th AfCFTA Council of Ministers Meeting in Durban, with the President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, presiding over the ceremony.
Kenya’s early adoption of the AfCFTA initiative was underscored by its dispatch of the first consignment, initially consisting of tea and later diversifying its exports in 2022. The AfCFTA, boasting a collective population of 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP exceeding USD 3.5 trillion, holds immense potential for both nations eager to explore and exploit mutual economic benefits.
Despite the relatively modest total trade figures of R9.7 billion (Ksh.83 billion) in 2022, with South Africa holding a trade surplus, the AfCFTA implementation opens avenues for substantial growth.
The framework provides a strategic platform for both countries to enhance exporter awareness, leveraging their individual national AfCFTA Implementation Strategies to maximize the advantages offered by the agreement.
Rebecca Miano, the Trade Cabinet Secretary in attendance, commended the initiative, highlighting the tremendous opportunity it presents for enhanced trade between the two nations.
“This action serves as a clear indication that South Africa is open for business within the AfCFTA framework,” she said.
Trade ties between Kenya and South Africa span diverse sectors, encompassing Kenyan exports of tea, coffee, fruits, and vegetables, while South Africa reciprocates with exports of iron and steel, mineral fuels, machinery, wine, cars, fridges, TVs, and agricultural products.
Cabinet Secretary Miano emphasized that the consignment from South Africa serves as a genuine testament to the nation’s readiness for strengthened trade ties.
“South Africa has confirmed its readiness to trade under the framework. It is also an indication that South Africa is ready to receive imports from the AfCFTA countries whose tariff offers have been finalized and adopted by the African Union Assembly,” she said.
As South Africa and Kenya take the lead, their proactive involvement under the AfCFTA establishes a positive example for other African nations, underscoring the significance of regional cooperation and trade integration in propelling economic growth across the continent.