Ensure swift implementation of AfCFTA agreement — Ghana Chamber of Commerce urges secretariat
The Head of Marketing at the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI), Mrs Grace Dzeble, has urged the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, the institution mandated to oversee the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement to be firm on countries which have ratified the agreement to ensure a swift implementation.
She made the comment during a panel discussion at a Public-Private Dialogue held on the Guided Trade Initiative (GTI), a programme under the AfCFTA, at the Alisa Hotel in Accra last Tuesday (November 28).
The discussion was on the topic “Positioning Ghanaian SMEs to Take Advantage of the Guided Trade Initiative Under AfCFTA.”
She said the GNCCI was one of the key stakeholders as far as the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement was concerned and added that Ghana had shown much commitment towards the implementation of the agreement, but sadly, same could not be said of other African countries.
“What we want to plead with the AfCFTA Secretariat, which is the mandatory institution to ensure that the agreement sees the light of day, and they should really be firm on ensuring that countries that ratify the agreement, especially those that have agreed voluntarily to join the Guided Trade Initiative, focus on the implementation because Ghana is totally ready for it but we cannot say same for other states,” she said.
She mentioned that since the launch of the agreement, her outfit, most especially with support from GIZ, had embarked on massive training because they realised that as much as information on the potential benefits of the AfCFTA agreement was concerned, expectations were high without the necessary understanding of the essence of the rules of origin.
“The chamber decided that we will focus on training so with the support of the GIZ last year, we went to every district in Ghana not just educating private sector, but SMEs on the agreement, protocols and the requirements as far as raw material input and production processes are concerned to be able to qualify and to trade under the AfCFTA,” she recounted.
“This year, we have been to about five regions and in eight cities training women entrepreneurs through workshops because we appreciated the fact that about 40 per cent of women form part of the SMEs sector in Ghana.”
The other panellists were Principal Officer, AfCFTA Secretariat, Dr Diana Ogwal Akullo, Assistant Commissioner, Tariff and Trade at Ghana Revenue Authority, Customs Division, Mr Fenchin Akoto, CEO of Portal Forest Estates, Mr Wellington Baiden and Head of Operations at G-MITH Enterprise, Isaac Kwame Ansah, who also touched on the various success stories recorded under the GTI and the need to go ahead with the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement.
Since its inception, several initiatives have been launched to promote the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement and the GTI is one of such initiatives launched in October 2022 by the AfCFTA Secretariat.
The GTI, which supports matchmaking businesses and products for export between state parties, was to maintain the momentum around the agreement as commercially significant trade is yet to begin since trading under the AfCFTA was announced as having commenced in January, 2021.
The overarching objective of the trade initiative is to ensure that AfCFTA is truly operational and the gains from the initiative improve implementation in order to achieve increased inter-regional and intra-Africa trade that will yield economic development for the betterment of the continent at large.
In a keynote address, Head of Division-Rules of Origin, AfCFTA Secretariat, Mr Didier Bonyeme said since the agreement could not be implemented earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other global events, the secretariat took the lead in coming up with the GTI to help state partners to start trading among themselves.
He called for the capacity building of key actors, especially the private sector, to motivate them to join the initiative.
“We should not do the implementation of this agreement without building the capacity of the key actors in the process and these key actors include the private sector, without which we will not be able to implement this agreement. We need goods to be traded among and between Africa,” he said.
He also commended Ghana for playing a key role to ensure that the AfCFTA agreement implementation would become a reality rather than a mirage.
“We started with seven countries, which Ghana is a part of and I am really happy to know that Ghana has taken the lead in the process of implementing the AfCFTA agreement. We will be ready to accompany you in this journey of implementing the AfCFTA agreement because it is a long journey and we hope that other countries will join,” Mr Bonyeme added.
He gave an assurance of his outfit’s commitment and full support for activities that would accelerate the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement.
Lead Technical Adviser at GIZ Trade Hub, James Hammond, said the GIZ Trade Hub, which is a regional programme commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Corporation and Development, was committed to strengthening the framework conditions of negotiating and implementing the AfCFTA.
He said although commercial trading started in 2021, there had not been meaningful commercially traded products across the continent and the GIT was a great initiative from the AfCFTA Secretariat to serve as a catalyst to motivate countries or member states to participate in the AfCFTA.
“Since it was launched in October 2020, eight countries participated, including Ghana and we heard a lot of feedback so we thought it was important to have the critical stakeholders here today to discuss the initiative and take stock of what happened and see the way to improve further, Ghana’s participation in the AfCFTA,” Mr Hammond said.
“As you may also know, most of the companies that participated from Ghana are already big companies that are exporting to Europe and other places. We also want to encourage smaller businesses to also take advantage of the AfCFTA through the Guided Trade Initiative to be able to leverage the continental market,” he added.
He expressed the hope that the event would provide valuable inputs to support SMEs to be motivated to participate in the AfCFTA through the GTI.
In a welcome address, West African Regional Director of CUTS, Appiah Kusi Adomako (Esq), said with 2023 declared as the year of accelerated AfCFTA implementation by the African Union, the implementation related issues around the AfCFTA needed to be put in focus through dialogues.
He said that would help to bring out structured diagnosis of problems and knowledge sharing on best practices, as well as success stories while providing the much-needed feedback and recommendations to accelerate the implementation.
“It is against this backdrop that the GIZ programme support to AfCFTA through CUTS International, Accra, seeks to embark on this Public-Private Dialogue to diagnose the GTI to identify gaps and suggest measures needed to address those gaps moving forward,” he said.