CAPE TOWN, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) - South Africa's future lies in Africa whose faster growth will bring very real material benefits for the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.
"The economies of the African continent are together growing at a rate far greater than our own, and we need to see the opportunity that such growth presents for our economy and for our people," the president said in his weekly nationwide address from the Desk of the President, a copy of which was emailed to Xinhua.
It is for this reason that South Africa has embraced the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), he said.
The AfCFTA will be a game-changer, both for South Africa and the rest of the continent, Ramaphosa said.
The AfCFTA, which aspires to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, spur industrialization and create more jobs, will become the world's largest free trade zone by the number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollar.
The time is right for a new era of intra-African trade, where African countries no longer look abroad for the products and services they need, but to other countries on this continent, Ramaphosa said.
In so doing, they will be helping to establish new African industries, create African jobs, open up new markets and steadily turn Africa into a powerhouse of global production, said Ramaphosa.
"With our relatively established manufacturing base, our developed road, rail, port and energy infrastructure, and our deep financial markets, South Africa is well-placed to make use of the opportunities a free trade area could provide," said Ramaphosa.
When South Africa takes over chairship of the African Union (AU) in a few months, the country will have a great responsibility to guide the implementation of the AfCFTA, he said.
"We will need to work to turn aspirations into action," he said.
Ramaphosa stressed the need for African countries to put in place all the rules, regulations and mechanisms needed to make such a free trade area work.
"But we will also need to invest in the infrastructure that we need to move goods from one African country to another, and that we need to produce such goods in the first place," he said.
While South Africa is undertaking a massive investment drive, it is also encouraging investment in other parts of the continent, said the president.
"We do so in pursuit of the shared African vision of Agenda 2063, but also because we know that South Africa cannot prosper unless Africa as a whole prospers," he said.
South Africa's commitment to developing Africa through greater integration is not merely sentimental or ideological, Ramaphosa said.
"African integration is overwhelmingly and undeniably in our national interest," he said.
Ramaphosa linked his country's future with Africa at a time when South Africa's relations with some African countries were challenged by xenophobic violence in the country.
"The recent public violence targeting foreign nationals has challenged our efforts to build stronger ties with other African countries," Ramaphosa said.
At least 12 people, including foreigners and South Africans, were killed in the violence that hit parts of the country last month.
These attacks, fueled by misinformation spread on social media, provoked much anger in different parts of the continent leading to threats against South African businesses and diplomatic missions, Ramaphosa said.