Nigeria-South Africa forum to discuss intra-African trade

19 August 2014

A meeting of the Nigeria-South Africa Chamber of Commerce, to be hosted by Brand South Africa in Lagos, Nigeria on Thursday, will discuss Africa’s competitiveness and ways of boosting intra-African trade.

Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Mzwandile Masina will address the forum, whose members include such heavyweights as Stanbic IBTC Bank, Honeywell Group, Philips Consulting, Old Mutual, First Bank, South African Airways, Southern Sun, MTN, Multichoice, SABMiller and Unilever.

“The NSACC is probably the most vibrant and active chamber of commerce in Nigeria, and was set up in 2000 to promote bilateral trade relations between Nigeria and South Africa,” Masina said on Monday.

The minister said the forum would look to facilitate opportunities for intra-Africa trade, and discuss ways in which African countries can collaborate for growth.

Economic growth across Africa is expected to hit 6.1% in 2014. The continent has the resources to power that growth and to feed itself. Entrepreneurship is flourishing, the middle class is growing and poverty rates have been falling since the 1990s.

What stands in the way of growing that percentage and making growth sustainable over the long term is the promotion of effective trade exchanges, as well as the availability of skilled people to drive development.

Colin Coleman, managing director of Goldman Sachs in South Africa, told an earlier Brand South Africa forum, held in Johannesburg in May following the World Economic Forum on Africa meeting in Abuja, that trade between African countries amounted to just 12% of all trade on the continent.

Freight trucks held up at border posts because there are too few guards, or the failure to embrace technology, are issues that constrain cross-border trade.

“We need to develop seamless and effective frameworks between governments to encourage more trade between African countries,” Coleman said. Agreements exist, he pointed out, but there remain practical problems on the ground, and a lack of follow-through has hampered trade growth.

Legislation and trade agreements are one thing, and these are in place, but skilled people to implement them will become the biggest stranglehold as trade grows.

If governments are unable to build education systems to deliver these people Africa’s ability to trade with itself will be hamstrung, Coleman said, hinting at the biggest challenge faced by African governments – education.

SAnews.gov.za and SAinfo reporter