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Right infrastructure needed to enhance intra-Africa trade - Trade Expert

BY: Ama Amankwah Baafi
Maame Awinador-Kanyirige, Trade Expert
Maame Awinador-Kanyirige, Trade Expert

A trade expert, Maame Awinador-Kanyirige, has urged African governments to put in place the right road infrastructure to facilitate trade on the continent.

Although the Africa Continental Free Trade Area is expected to remove trade barriers on the continent, she said one of the critical things that has to be done was the need to put in place an effective transportation system to enable the smooth movement of goods.

In an interview with the Graphic Business on June 29, 2022, on the effect of the two-year border closure due to COVID-19 on the Ghanaian economy in terms of cross border trade, she said an improved transportation system was the only way to move goods at a cheaper cost between states.

“One of the biggest things is looking at policies that help improve the supply chain – transport, the movement of goods and services, storage, among others. Because once we are strengthened within, we can have more capacity to perform externally by competing on a global scale,” she said

She said intra-African trade offered much opportunity to Ghana in the quest to becoming economically independent.

Judging from the current Russia-Ukraine crisis with its impact on fuel as a major commodity, she said there was the need for countries to work to remove all the impediments that affect trade within the region.

Effect on trade

According to Ms Awinador-Kanyirige, although a lot of trade take place between north-south (Ghana-Europe, Ghana-China) a lot of goods also move within West Africa because of ECOWAS.

She said the various land borders, where a lot of food come from (tomatoes from Burkina and onions from Niger), were limited because of the outbreak of the pandemic.

She said the impact was dire although it was same globally.

“But for us as a small country, knowing that we also rely heavily on our borders, I mean, our neighbouring countries, the impact was greater because it increased the cost of food and reinforced us to continue to rely on bringing exports from Europe and China, which also costs a lot of money in terms of foreign currency.

“A lot of people lost their businesses- their livelihoods, as their goods stuck at the borders. People couldn't move and so obviously made food expensive,” she said.


Prof Gatsi

For his part, an economist, Prof. John Gatsi, said every community and its people thrive when they engage in economic activities.

As a result, the first disturbance the closure brought on the people in those areas was the limited economic activities.

He said this had resulted in job losses and hardships.

“So, we are happy the borders have been opened to allow the people to go about their normal economic engagement to support their living,” he said.

 

Lesson learned

Many Ghanaians depend on cross-border trade with Togo, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

President Akufo-Addo announced the opening of sea and land borders two years after the borders were closed and said the economy would rebound soon.

Prof. Gatsi, who is also the Head of the Business School at the University of Cape Coast, said if border closures had implication for security and cross border transfer of diseases, then definitely borders would have to be closed in that situation.

“But if the situation is that it should not be closed, we shouldn’t do so. We cannot open airports and say that we cannot open the land borders. The same protocol observation that was imposed at the airports should be imposed on people at the land borders to observe.


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