Looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the Eastern Cape Province and the alignment of the African Continental Free Trade Area implementation with the Eastern Cape Economic Recovery Plan, the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Mlungisi Mvoko emphasized the need for the province to strike a balance between exports and imports.
Mvoko said “too much imports to a country are bad for job creation and growth of industries … the Eastern Cape province should have an appetite for good imports such as machinery, smart technology that can be used to develop quality products from the province’s natural resources for the export markets”.
He was speaking at the Eastern Cape Export Symposium, which was held in East London on 24 – 25 March. The event was attended by prominent world leaders and experts in export from South Africa and from as far as the United States of America, China, Australia and other African countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Botswana, Lesotho, Guinea including businesses who are potential buyers for the 40 Eastern Cape exhibitors that were selling their various products and services.
The Province is a net exporter of goods to the rest of the world, with the balance of trade recording a trade surplus of R12.1 billion in 2016 increasing to R45.7 billion in 2020. The value of total exports from the Eastern Cape has shown an upward trend of R55.0 billion in 2016 to a high of R91.7 billion in 2020, an increase of 67% over the period under consideration, a trend that has defied the global slowdown caused by the impact of COVID-19.
Similarly, the total value of imports showed an upward trend of R43.0 billion in 2016 to R46.0 billion in 2020.
In ensuring a steady escalation of these favourable trends, the Eastern Cape Export Symposium and Exhibition committed on key resolutions as a way forward; (1) to remove impediments to export trading by investing on socio-economic infrastructure and reduction of production costs including municipal rates, (2) to design an industry aligned curriculum with the education sector, (3) to secure access to land and water as those are the critical resources for agriculture development.
To complement these solutions, Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) Senior Manager Trade Promotion, Phakamisa George, highlighted the ECDC’s direct involvement in providing opportunities to emerging and export-ready businesses to penetrate local and foreign markets while improving their global competitiveness.
“A significant pillar of ECDC’s development mandate is the facilitation of meaningful investment and trade activities which are a central part in a buoyant and energised provincial economy,” added George.
“The ECDC assists Eastern Cape-based business to strengthen their competitive and comparative trade advantages and harness these to access international markets.”
This is done through various trade promotion activities that are designed to provide market access to exporters, training to aspiring exporters and training support for the promotion of exports. A range of partnerships are in place to ensure that these activities take place.
“The Africa free-trade area should see our Exporters making inroads to other African countries, particularly East, West and North Africa taking advantage of the province’s three Ports. The Eastern Cape emerging and seasoned exporters should seize this opportunity,” said Mvoko.