Robert Ahomka-Lindsay, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Trade and Industry, has said the nation must position its business community to make the most out of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
He said Ghana was the eighth largest importer on the Continent, and also hosted the AfCFTA Secretariat, and definitely would become a focus of the competition.
The Minister therefore said a robust strategy would be required to stay ahead when the AfCFTA kicked off January 1st, 2021.
Mr Ahomka-Lindsay made the call at a Regional Stakeholders conference in Ho ahead of the implementation stage of the trade agreement, which promises to eliminate tariff barriers and create a regional trade block of African nations, said to be the largest in the world.
The conference was on the theme “Empowering Ghanaian Businesses to Harness the Benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement under the Framework of the National export Development Strategy (NEDS)”.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry, the GEPA, and the National AfCFTA Coordinating Office, put the nationwide conference together, and was attended by a broad spectrum of stakeholders including; regulatory and revenue agencies, and also entrepreneurs drawn from across the business acumen of the various regions.
The Minister said Government and other stakeholders were working to “ready” the nation for January 2021, actively ensuring that the needed information was being disseminated to the private sector, the main player on the free trade field.
He said the NEDS had been constructed to properly serve the growth needs of the export economy of the Country.
Mr Ahomka-Lindsay paralleled the free trade area to an Olympic contest and said “Ghana has been called into the competition. The prize is a 1.2 billion market and a GDP of over 3 billion USD.
“The numbers are growing and growing fast, and I will be happy to see industries in Ghana holding the flag of gold at the competition,” he said.
“Our priority is to arm you with the tools, knowledge, skills and all the key components needed for 2021,” the Minister added.
Mr Ahomka-Lindsay said whereas intra-regional trade accounted for 60 percent of commerce activities of developed nations, Ghana's trade with its immediate neighbors hovered around a low threshold of 15-17 per cent.
“This means we are giving away the easier part of our trade to outsiders,” he lamented, but assured that the AFCTA brought along the “right framework” to grow intra-regional trade.
The Minister said AFCTA's key objectives of scrapping within a decade, duties and quotas on 90 per cent of goods traded, would increase trading among African countries by a projected 52 per cent.
He said the private sector, under the free trade agreement, would be positioned, as the engine of growth, and that Government would ensure fiscal responsibility.
Government is injecting GHC 2 billion as capital for the private sector through the National Development Bank.
The Minister therefore encouraged the private sector to work towards becoming the lead processors and exporters of the 17 products identified by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) and called for extra attention to product packaging and detailing, adding that producers must be creative to be able to mount the competition.
Dr Afua Asabea Asare, Chief Executive Officer of the GEPA, said the long overdependence on raw material exports only aided the growth of other nations, and praised the commitment of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo for “a complete reorientation”.
She said the formulation of the national export strategy was “totally aligned” to the industrialization agenda of Government and is expected to help realize a “rapid increase” in non-traditional export revenues from the present 2.9billion USD to 25 billion by 2029.
Dr Asabea Asare said a recent World Bank survey revealed that only 26.2 per cent of business in the country was aware of the AfCFTA, and that the regional engagements would help ensure that “no business is left behind due to lack of information”.