On July 7, 2019, the African Union (AU) launched the Operational Phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in Niamey, Niger, following the coming into force of the Agreement on May 30, 2019.
The historic launch of the Operational Phase of the Agreement sends a signal to the world of business in Africa and elsewhere that Africa is ready to implement the largest Single Market in the world, incorporating 55 countries with a population of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of about USD3 trillion.
The Daily Graphic is happy to note that this is happening at a most opportune time when China, the manufacturing hub of the world, is rising from low-level manufacturing to advanced robotics, freeing up an estimated 100 million labour-intensive manufacturing jobs that an ambitious country such as Ghana could absorb to reduce poverty and boost employment.
In a keynote address to open Ghana’s first national conference on the Implementation of the AfCFTA for a Ghana Beyond Aid, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo reminded all stakeholders that the most critical task for Africa, and by extension Ghana, was how to harness the benefits of an integrated African Continental Free Trade Area by overcoming the challenges associated with fragmented markets, such as limited cross-border transport, infrastructure and investment links.
The Daily Graphic considers it heart-warming that the dream of the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now AU, has been re-echoed in the AfCFTA and delivered by the current generation of African leaders.
Beyond the many advantages that member countries of AfCFTA will enjoy, the benefits to Ghana are enormous.
It is true the number of visitors, tourists and business people who will come into the country will increase with the setting up of the secretariat, which will boost the hospitality and the services sectors.
It will also create employment opportunities for the people. Consequently, these will increase economic activities that will shore up government revenue.
Indeed, with these we agree with the President that the establishment of the secretariat ties into the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda when the country will be self-sufficient and will not have to resort to aid to carry out its development programmes.
But we wish to admonish that the simple fact of the secretariat of AfCFTA being in Ghana would not bring the expected windfalls that the Free Trade Area promises.
After the AfCFTA has been successfully negotiated and ratified, it is our contention that the ultimate game-changer will be the quality and urgency of its implementation.
In our view, there must also be a paradigm shift from protectionist to strategic realignments and partnerships to expand the frontiers of investment beyond national borders.
We strongly encourage the private sector, both national and regional, to rise to the challenge, since it is envisaged that the AfCFTA will bring in bigger businesses that may also make competition very stiff for our entrepreneurs.
It is refreshing to note that our government adopted an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to the bidding process that landed Ghana the honour of hosting the AfCFTA Secretariat.
The country must adopt a similar approach and concentrate on implementing a national action plan to harvest the benefits.
The Daily Graphic concludes that with a positive macro-economic outlook and a raft of pro-business policies and programmes, such as 1D1F, Ghana is in a good position to take advantage of the Single Continental Market for a Ghana Beyond Aid, now and into the future, but we must not forget to focus to get our act right.