The African Continental Free Trade Area will level the playing field for African businesses, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
"The African Continental Free Trade Area will be an important step towards rebalancing global trade relations and levelling the playing field for African businesses. Through the Continental Free Trade Area, we want to reignite industrialisation, boost intra-African trade and benefit from the largest common market in the world," said the President.
The President said this when he delivered the keynote address at the 2020 edition of the Ubuntu Awards which were hosted by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco).
The award ceremony was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre at the weekend.
The continent's new trading bloc - which is expected to come into operation in July 2020 - enjoys the support of several African states and was adopted through an agreement.
The agreement will see member states removing tariffs from up to 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent.
The President's comments come as South Africa assumed the chairship of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa earlier in the week.
Addressing ambassadors and captains of industry from various fields, the President said South Africa aims to use the African Union chairship to promote integration, industrialisation, economic development, trade and investment.
"We will work to strengthen good governance in Africa. We will work to advance women's economic empowerment and financial inclusion, and intensify the continental struggle to end violence against women and children."
"Through the AU Peace and Security Council, the AU Commission and the collective membership, we will focus our efforts on conflict resolution across the African continent," he said.
Flying SA's flag high
Prior to the President's address, individuals and organisations received awards for displaying excellence in their respective fields of work.
Among the winners were The Daily Show host and Grammy Award nominee Trevor Noah, who was awarded the Ubuntu Arts and Cultural Diplomacy Award in the youth category for flying the SA flag high in his field of work.
World-celebrated musician Vusi Mahlasela, who is a SA Music Awards lifetime achievement recipient, was also a recipient of the Arts and Cultural Diplomacy Award in the veterans' category.
Springboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick received the Sports Diplomacy Award on behalf of the team. This after their Rugby World Cup triumph in Japan last year and for uniting the country behind the slogan "Stronger Together".
The Ubuntu Lifetime Achievement Award went to Dr Brigalia Bam, a prominent gender activist.
Bam is the Chancellor of Walter Sisulu University, a former Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and former General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches.
She was recently awarded the prestigious Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation.
"What we are doing here this evening - celebrating excellence in diplomacy - aligns with our broader efforts to achieve these objectives, because conflict occurs only when diplomacy has collapsed."
"The various categories of these prestigious awards are indicative of the fact that successful diplomacy is an integrated effort, and one that draws together different activities, qualities and capabilities," President Ramaphosa said.