African CEOs are positive about continental free trade pact – PwC

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CEOs in Africa are positive about the long-awaited African Continental Free Trade Agreement and its potential to grow African economies, according to the head of PwC Africa, Dion Shango.

Shango was speaking at a WEF Africa briefing on PwC's Africa Business Agenda 2019 report, released on Wednesday. The report is based on a survey of over 80 Africa CEOs, and gives their views on the continent's economy, its prospects for growth and business opportunities.

Shango told journalists that African chief executives were positive about the implications of the free trade pact, which will create the world's largest free trade area once operational. Its aim is to establish a single continental market for goods and services, allow the free movement of business travellers and investments, and possibly quicken the establishment a continental customs union.

"Personally, I believe [it is] something that is long overdue. One of the sad aspects of African trade today is that we are hellbent on trading with everyone else except with ourselves. Arguably all African countries have larger trading partners with countries outside Africa than with fellow African states," he said.

"The sky's the limit for what can be achieved, and the growth that can be seen coming from out of the continent," he said.

Shango said there needs to be "political will" for the agreement to "come to life" and have "action on the ground". 

The PwC report indicated that companies have been cautious about expanding in the continent, due to slower-than expected growth rates, trading conflicts and protectionism. 

Investment in infrastructure 

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi told a lunch with CEOs on Wednesday that key to boosting trade within Africa was investment in infrastructure, peace and security.  

"You can't send goods across borders which are not safe. We as Botswana are readying ourselves up to be efficient and to attract you to invest your money, services, your systems," he said. 

He marketed Botswana as alternative to South Africa for companies looking to do invest. "It has historically been South Africa but we too can provide that opportunity. We provide a lot of predictability, a stable labour force, you can be assured our friendliness would not stand in way with you doing business in SA."

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