The government has been urged to ensure that all the required ICT infrastructure and resources are put in place to equip the country for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement after the coronavirus pandemic.
Implementation of the free trade agreement was expected to commence on July 1 this year; however, due to the disruptions occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, it is likely to be deferred to next year.
Ghana was selected to host the secretariat of AfCFTA, giving the country a pivotal role in overseeing the implementation of the agreement. The country has committed US$10m for the operationalisation of the secretariat.
To this end, the Deputy Director-General of the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), Kwaku Kyei Ofori, has encouraged government to leverage the benefits ICT presents and ensure that the economy is ready digitally to make the implementation of AfCFTA efficient and effective as well as boost intra-Africa trade.
Speaking to Business 24 in an exclusive interview, he said: “Digitising the economy can help us leapfrog all other businesses that are around. If we are prepared and ready [for AfCFTA], and we get our structures in place, it affords us an opportunity to improve our economy.”
He added that he was optimistic about Ghana’s digitisation prospects. “We will be digitally ready, because if you look at the rectifications we are putting in place from education to health, everything is being done in a much smarter way. We have had engagements with other stakeholders [on AfCFTA] to know the requirements expected of us.”
He said COVID-19 has changed lots of things, and with the advent of technology, economies can harness the benefits to turn things around by way of intra-Africa trade, collaboration and building synergies.
Explaining the importance of technology to regional integration, he argued that a comprehensive database system will help African countries to put together sizeable economic stimulus packages to help alleviate the economic devastation arising from the pandemic.
AfCFTA provides the opportunity for Africa to create the world’s largest free trade area, with the potential to unite 1.3bn people in a US$2.5 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development. The main objectives of AfCFTA are to create a continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people and capital, and pave the way for creating a customs union.
It will also grow intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation across the continent. AfCFTA is further expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access, and better reallocation of resources.