9 July 2019

African Continental Free Trade Agreement Must Work!

Photo: AU
The AU's 12th Extraordinary Summit on AfCFTA ended on July 7.
opinion

Africa's quest to increase trade and investment by creating a world class trading bloc was given a further boost at the 12th AU Extraordinary Summit in Niamey, capital of Niger, as Ghana was given the mantle to host the secretariat.

The core mandate of the secretariat is to implement the AfCFTA which is designed to deepen integration of the African continent by creating a single continental market with free movement of businesses, people and investment.

The avowed objective of this landmark world class trading bloc is to create the 'Africa We Want' as espoused in the Agenda 2063 that seeks to reintegrate Africa, uplift the people of the continent from poverty and empower the continent to be a key player in global affairs.

Ghana is much privileged to be given the opportunity to host the secretariat as reflected in the acceptance speech of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, "It is a privilege that for the first time in our nation's history, we have the responsibility of hosting an important pan-African institution."

Ghanaian Times commends Ghanaians and other Africa countries for supporting the government to get the green light to lead Africa in the implementation of the AfCFTA that is expected to impact positively on the lives of the people of Africa in terms of flourishing of businesses, engendering competitiveness in Africa intra-trade, job creation, value for money and reduction of poverty, among other benefits.

There are some who may express some misgivings about the agreement. We are convinced that the benefits certainly outweigh any demerit. It is certainly a defining moment for micro, small scale businesses on the continent.

We urge Africa to continue to support Ghana to prepare and execute the host country agreement for the actualisation of the implementation processes.

Touted as 'economic game changer', the implementation of the African Union projects (AfCFTA) will result in 60 per cent increase in the volume of trade among African countries by 2022, whose intra-trade currently is estimated at about 16 per cent.

All things being equal, the AfCFTA will 'rival' the World Trade Organisation, and is expected to cover a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined Gross Domestic Product of $2.5 trillion across 54 member countries that have signed up to the agreement.

Ghanaian Times is urging Africa not to let this golden opportunity of business to slip. We express this concern because of past experiences of other sub-regional agreements that have not worked to expectations, due to implementation challenges, lack of goodwill and commitments.

Public awareness of the AfCFTA is key to the implementation process and success of the agreement.

We, therefore, call for reflection on the foreword written by Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director, International Trade Centre in the "Business Guide to the African Continental Trade Area Agreement".

He notes, "To ensure that private sector can benefit from the African Free Trade Area, it is important that businesses understand what the AfCFTA and future negotiations will cover. Business should ensure its voice is heard as governments craft and operationalise the agreement. In order to do that, they need to be fully aware of the issues, potential benefits, and opportunities and most importantly the role they can play."

Mr Gonzalez further observes "The knowledge will enable businesses to engage effectively in advocacy and public-private dialogue to support the negotiations and subsequent implementations of the AfCTFA."

AfCTFA must work for Africans!

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