A FREE trade agreement with nations in Continental Africa would help offset supply chain impacts from COVID-19, the president of the Australia-Africa Chamber of Commerce says.

Speaking at the launch of a multi-party effort to stimulate Australian investment in Africa, Duncan Harris said Africa had become a lucrative investment option and a free trade agreement would stimulate vital economic growth.

Mr Harris said Africa’s “exploding consumer-driven middle class” made it an investment option that “simply cannot be ignored”. 

“With diplomatic and business confidence in China at an all-time low many businesses are rethinking their business models, and the time is right to encourage commercial activity with Africa,” Mr Harris said.

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“Africa’s GDP has continued to grow consistently at around 4% in recent years, and despite COVID-19 is likely to again exceed that in 2020.

“Africa offers increasing commercial capability and investment requirements that are well suited to Australian expertise, including mining, agri-business, infrastructure, energy, retail and technology.”

Mr Harris said a significant pipeline of physical infrastructure projects was also in place.

“A free trade agreement would be a major catalyst in generating investment that would have a positive return for both economies.”

Mr Harris said two-way export between the Continents was around $11bn in the past financial year, with the majority of that accounting for imports to Australia.

The call for a free-trade agreement comes as AACC announce a partnership with Austrade to jointly connect Australian business and Investors to African export opportunities.

AACC has also engaged with Export Finance Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to expand its capability to stimulate investment.

It has also developed a Business Intelligence system, in partnership with global research houses Asoko Insight and HIS-Markit. “We need a data and resource centre that that is both sustainable and scalable,” Mr Harris said.

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