South Africa - Cape Town - 06 April 2019 - Minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor addressing the youth at Beacon Hill high school in Mitchell's Plain.The minister is attending the DHET Youth Summit in thet area.Photograph :Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor on Thursday said South Africa must ensure that it is ready to take advantage of the potential offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) which was recently agreed to during the 12th extraordinary session of the African Union (AU) in Ethiopia.

“We are very encouraged by the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. Now that it has come into force, an immense opportunity for trade within Africa has come in to being. South Africa must ensure that it is ready to take advantage of the potential offered by this expanded market access,” she said. 

Pandor tabled her department’s budget vote in Parliament on Thursday afternoon. She said: “Once the agreement is fully operationalised, Africa will be one of the world’s largest single markets encompassing 55 countries or a population of 1.2 billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3.2 trillion. The development of the necessary infrastructure for this expanded trade is going to gather speed and we, as South Africa, must be ready to play a key role.”

The free trade area agreement was agreed to last weekend during the 12th extraordinary session of the African Union (AU) in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. SA President Cyril Ramaphosa said the agreement was a milestone that would fulfill a dream crafted by the founders of the Organisation of African Union 60 years ago when they conceptualised an integrated Africa.