The sprawling metropolis of East London has a population roughly equal to the population of São Tomé and Príncipe - just above 200,000 in both cases. São Tomé and Príncipe (two islands, but one country) account for half the African countries with which the Southern African Customs Union has implemented the African Continental Free Trade Area. The other half is Egypt.
Now this might be disappointing, given the exuberant media coverage saying we have implemented the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Fifty-four of the 55 African Union members have signed the agreement and, at last count, 34 have deposited their instruments of ratification.
Although Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel has "called on South African farmers and manufacturers to gear up for the new opportunities in export markets", it is by no means clear which markets he had in mind when he made this statement.
In fact, we are not sure if Egypt and São Tomé have even implemented duty preferences into their countries and, if so, on which tariff codes these preferences exist. This matters because taking advantage of the trade agreement requires clarity on where those preferences exist.
I am a huge supporter of the AfCFTA,...