Speakers at a roundtable discussion on African trade have urged signatories to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to focus on improving local production to guarantee the effective implementation of the agreement.
They explained that enough had been said about the free movement of goods and services as one of the benefits of the agreement, but the reality was that effective implementation of the agreement would depend on what the member countries produced.
The speakers were the Director for Africa of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Jamil Ampomah; the Coordinator of the Third World Network Africa, Dr Yao Graham, and the Chief Technical Advisor on AfCFTA at the AfCFTA Secretariat, Accra, Prudence Sebahizi.
The roundtable was organised by the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) Law School, in partnership with the ACCA, in Accra on March 24.
It was on the theme: “The AfCFTA, the environment and sustainable value chain”.
Regional value chain
In his contribution, Dr Graham noted that the ability to reduce importation was the best option for Africa’s economy, acknowledging that building an African trade integration alone would not fix the economy.
He explained that local production would help change the narrative of Africa serving as a dumping site for second-hand goods by European countries.
He added that in liberalising intra-African trade, African countries must consciously support indigenous firms and build regional, national and continental value chains.
“If you have a liberalisation strategy which does not support the building of African enterprise and African job creation, you may be improving the conditions under which foreign firms increase their profits across the African economy, rather than facilitating economic expansion in Africa,” he said.
Taking his turn at the discussion, Mr Sebahizi said AfCFTA was aimed at enhancing the free movement of goods produced in Africa and also guarantee a ready market across Africa.
He noted that Africa was rich in both human and natural resources, but emphasised that the continent was import-dependent, which placed strains on its finances.
"When we import, we are killing our own markets because we import products that can potentially be produced in Africa," he said.
Mr Sebahizi added that the AfCFTA agreement did not address only tariff regularisation but also issues of transport, transit, trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade and environmental issues.
"By developing regional value chains on the auto sector in Africa, in the next 15 years, we will be able to produce our own cars in Africa and then we will avoid being a dumping ground for those developed countries," he said.
For his part, Mr Ampomah said the ACCA, with some 100,000 members in about 48 African countries, sought to ensure that its members had a better understanding of AfCFTA, as they played advisory roles in various businesses across Africa.
Identifying ways of ensuring that AfCFTA succeeded, he mentioned business health, capacity building and cooperation with other organisations as the best ways to achieving the objectives of the agreement.
He stressed the urgency of capacity building in AfCFTA countries, noting that “to improve upon the capacities of businesses, it is important that countries operate to consistent standards".
Those standards, he said, should also conform to standards accepted round the globe.