African Continental Free Trade Area: Plan fits into Ghana’s vision — Akufo-Addo
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has stated that Ghana stands ready to derive maximum benefits from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
He said the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda tied in well with the AfCFTA and indicated that the recent policies and programmes initiated and implemented by the government was also aligned with the AfCFTA, providing additional fertile ground for the attainment of the development agenda.
The President stated that the restoration of microeconomic stability and fiscal discipline, creation of a business-friendly environment, the renovation and expansion of infrastructure, as well as the banking sector reforms, were all geared towards creating an industrialised economy that would add value to the natural resources and take advantage of opportunities created under the AfCFTA for an expanded marketplace.
President Akufo-Addo stated this when he opened a national conference on the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement in Accra on Mondy (August 20, 2019). He said the coming into force of the AfCFTA tied in with the government’s vision of a situation beyond aid.
“This vision can better be realised if we can leverage the trade and investment opportunities the AfCFTA presents,” the President added.
Organised by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the three-day workshop, aimed at harnessing the benefit of the AfCFTA, is on the theme: “Harnessing the Benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area for a Ghana Beyond Aid”.
On July 7, this year, the Africa Union (AU)?announced the selection of Ghana to host the headquarters of the AfCFTA.
So far, 54 African countries have ratified the agreement and Ghana was one of the two nations that deposited its ratified agreement with the AU.
In 2011, then President J. E. A. Mills first mooted the idea for Ghana to be considered to host the secretariat and this was vigorously pursued by President Akufo-Addo, who assigned the Trade Minister, Mr Alan Kyerematen, to spearhead Ghana’s bid.
Former Presidents J. J. Rawlings and J.A. Kufuor as well as prominent chiefs, including the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, were all roped in to play leading roles that yielded success for the country.
Explaining why the continental free trade area was crucial for the development of both Africa and Ghana, President Akufo-Addo noted that trade among African countries stood at 16 per cent compared with 75 per cent for those in the European Union (EU) bloc and added that such low levels of intra-regional trade could not improve the prospects of bringing prosperity to the people of Africa.
He stated that the coming into force of the AfCFTA meant that Africa would have the largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, which covers 1.2 billion people, with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3 trillion across the 54 states that had signed up to the agreement.
“AfCFTA will provide the vehicle that will allow Africans to trade among themselves in sophisticated programmes and offer huge opportunities to exploit the abundant resources of the continent for the benefit of all our people, and it will also give us protection on how to deal with other trading blocs,” the President added.
President Akufo-Addo stated that hosting the AfCFTA secretariat in Ghana would go into the annals as the first time in the history of the AU that the country had been given the privilege to host an African institution.
He gave an assurance that the facilities required for the smooth running of the secretariat and a suitable accommodation for the head of the secretariat were already in place and that pursuant to the statutes of the AU the secretariat would enjoy the relevant privileges and immunities of the international convention.
It is estimated that by 2050, Africa will have the largest population of young people in the world, meaning that African countries will have to find sustainable ways of creating jobs other than relying on the limited absorption capacity of public sector jobs.
President Akufo-Addo said another benefit the country would derive from the free trade area was the positioning of the financial services sector to support growth in agriculture, the manufacturing and industry sectors.
He explained that the reforms by the Bank of Ghana were being done to safeguard the savings of depositors and also create a vibrant banking sector that could help mobilise resources to finance the industrial, economic and agricultural transformation.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Alan Kyerematen, noted that, “At long last, our beloved continent has woken up from a very long slumber. The dream of establishing a single market for our content has been the dream of the founding fathers of the continent for several decades,” he said.
He said Ghana had played a very important role in bringing the continent to where it was, adding that contributions by Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, led to the unification of the continent.
Mr Kyerematen said the whole idea about the single market for Africa started in February 2011, in Accra and in January 2012, the Heads of State of the AU endorsed the decision from the Ministerial Committee to establish a single market and continental free trade area.
The Trade Minister also acknowledged the efforts played by former President Mills, whose tenure saw the passage of the motion that was tabled by the Heads of State of the AU.
“Our current President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was one of the first to put his signature to this agreement and I think that is very significant.
“Our President was also the first to offer to host the Secretariat of the Continental Free Trade Area,” Mr Kyerematen said.