World Trade and South Africa

Today, no country is an island either politically or economically, and in the latter sphere individual nations are becoming ever increasingly interconnected within a global macro-economy. One of the primary mechanisms interlocking national economies within the global economy is international trade in goods (consumer electronics, manufactured goods like fridges, etc.) and services. Although many governments see the need to protect local agricultural sectors (for strategic reasons including, for example, food security), trade in industrial goods and various financial products and services has been remarkably liberalised since the end of the Second World War.

With the establishment of a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) since 1947, the post WWII era, economically, has been an era of massive international trade and cross-border Corporation and business co-operation.

Efficient cross-border trade often results in benefits for all concerned, thus increasing economic prosperity, and, as a consequence of this, national material well-being. Good international trade, however, often relies on national stability and the establishment of trade centres that facilitate international dialogue and deal making.

Trade centres around the world therefore play a pivotal role in setting up crucial relationships that translate into influential and beneficial trade agreements and partnerships. In South Africa, the local World Trade Centre is situated in Cape Town, and although it is a private sector initiative, it enjoys the support of the public sector and can be seen to be a significant player in sub-Saharan African economic development.

The Mother City’s World Trade Centre is also backed by the World Trade Centre Association, which is a body designed to increase the business co-operation between private and public sectors in a multitude of countries.

As recently as mid-2012, the Trade Centre played host to the World Trade Centre Association’s (WTCA) Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) regional meeting. The meeting was aimed at expanding the amount of trade between sub-Saharan African countries and the rest of the world. As part of the process, over 1000 influential delegates descended on the southern African city to set up valuable connections, engage in brain storming processes, participate in panel discussions and agree on formal or informal memorandums of understanding.

The 1000 delegates comprised of top business executives from all over the world, including, importantly, those from the region’s most powerful public and private organisations. Countries that fall within the WTC region are South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, the embattled Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Djibouti.

When unveiling the event to the public at Century City, the South African World Trade Centre CEO, Julius Steyn, pointed out that contemporary research showed that the compounded economic growth rate of the region would amount to about 4% per year from 2011 to 2020, which will add an estimated $2,8 trillion to the value found in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite these income supplements SA authorities and businesses need to do more to alleviate poverty in the country. The centre’s aim, Steyn continued, would be to facilitate up to 1% of this growth within five years, which in turn would add up to about $70 billion. This amount, according to reliable sources, is sixteen percent more than what is needed to eliminate poverty. With an incentive like this, there can be little doubt that the influence of the WTC on the national economy could be fantastic.