Ramaphosa’s AfCFTA burden as he braces to lead Africa
By John Eche
In line with the set structure of the African Union, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa will in January 2020 be taking over from Egypt’s Al-Sisi as Chairman of the African Union’s, AU Assembly of Heads of States and Governments.
As he assumes the mantle of leadership, one critical burden that history has laid at his doorstep is that of fully flagging off the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA process which gets into its full operational phase in the same year.
Given particularly the challenges that many African nationals have suffered at the hands of South Africans on account of their being victims of xenophobic violence, it will be interesting to see how Ramaphosa will navigate the troubling headwinds of local political pressure and continental diplomatic demands.
And this is precisely how precarious it is. From its apartheid era dislocations, South Africa has been faced with the challenge of keeping its more marginalised classes at bay. The promise of the coming of the Rainbow nation 25 years ago has not addressed this challenge and South Africa has only this week been re-confirmed as one of the most unequal societies on earth. This comes with several stark indicators: an angry, alienated, dispossessed, hungry and embittered segment of the population that has in many occasions taken their anger out on other Africans who have come to work, school or live in South Africa.
For more soundbite on this, let us take some statistics from a recent survey. Conducted by
Stellenbosch University’s Anna Orthofer, it reveals that the wealthiest 1% of the population in South Africa owns 67% of all the country’s wealth even as the top 10% owns 93%. So what is left for the remaining 90%? A mere 7 per cent!
Paradoxically, as Africa’s most industrialised economy in a continent that everyone says needs to urgently boost its intra-continental trade levels and with its burgeoning unemployment and poverty challenge, South Africa seriously needs to do business with the rest of Africa. But how can you do business with other people that you do not want to even see, let alone relate with?
Going beyond South Africa, Ramaphosa would also be expected to help deal with the associated challenge of having to mediate in resolving the incidence and fall-outs of potential cross-border conflict situations like those between Rwanda and Uganda and the spat between Nigeria, Benin and Niger over alleged smuggling of goods imported from elsewhere into the economy and landmass of ‘the giant of Africa.’ But if he is struggling with the fires of xenophobia back in his home country, on what moral pedestal would he be standing upon to trouble-shoot even in these situations?
2020 will surely be a most interesting year for Africa.
Incoming AU Chairman, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa