He was speaking at the fair on Monday at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban

“Colonialism deeply damaged the indigenous development of African trade and caused great harm to our societies. It is our expectation that this Intra-African Trade Fair will further cement its position as Africa’s premier trade platform, where African manufacturers can promote and sell more ‘Made in Africa’ goods to one another.

“This is critical if we are to change the distorted trade relationship that exists between African countries and the rest of the world,” said Ramaphosa.

He said the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the first quarter of 2020 exposed the frailty of African economies.

“More importantly, it sent a powerful message to our continent about the dangers of over-reliance on external sources to meet its growing demand for food, medicines and other essential supplies.

“It clearly demonstrated that Africa needs to produce its own food and medicines, to strengthen continental supply chains, and to invest in infrastructure and capacitate African institutions.

“To illustrate the extent of the challenge, the UN Economic Commission for Africa estimates that Africa imports about 94% of its pharmaceutical and medicinal needs from outside the continent at an annual cost of $16bn,” he said.

Ramaphosa added that half of Africa’s people are women, and they are the dominant actors in the informal sectors of Africa’s economic landscape.

“Despite this, women only generate about a third of the continent’s combined GDP. It is important that the Intra-African Trade Fair gives special attention to African women in business, recognising their great potential as drivers of economic change across the continent.

“Trade is built on a bedrock of investment,” he said.

Ramaphosa added that the continent must find ways of attracting more investment into economies and, crucially, “we must encourage African businesses to invest in each other’s countries”.

“This requires that we improve the ease of doing business in our countries and provide protection for investors through strong and independent legal systems that will ensure the sanctity of contract and fair and expeditious legal processes.”