A Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah, has welcomed the African Continental Free Trade Area, saying it would be beneficial for African trade.
“African leaders have agreed that you can be in one country and produce goods to export to other African countries without any hindrance when it comes to payment of duties and no limit on quantity. I would say it is probably the best thing that happened to the African Continent,” he asserted.
Carlos Ahenkorah who doubles as the MP for Tema West, participated with Dr. Joseph Obeng, the President of the Ghana Union of Traders’ Association, and Ziad Hamoui, President of the Borderless Alliance Ghana, in an Eye on Port panel discussion live on national television.
The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry said Africa is lagging far behind other continents when it comes to intra-continental trade, and outlined some challenges that exist in Africa that hamper a free and efficient trade system, including bad transport linkages, currency disparities and language barriers.
“If you want to ship goods to another African country by sea, you’ll have to spend more time than someone who wants to ship the same items to Europe or from Europe to West Africa. We do not have a comfortable means of trade among ourselves. Also, we use different currencies, and most of these currencies are not convertible. For example Ghana’s currency loses its worth when it crosses Togo. Again, it’s hard to do reasonable business because the labelling standards in every country is specific to their language,” he enumerated.
He however pointed out that Ghana’s road corridor is comparatively better and safer, which accounts for why Francophone businesses prefer to transit through Ghana’s corridor.
Carlos Ahenkorah, also disclosed that, under the Boosting Intra-African Trade protocol, financial institutions in Africa are supported to act independently to safeguard African money which according to him would alleviate the currency disparities that are existent.
Secondly, according to the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Africa is leading a charge to make French and English the official language of the continent.
He revealed however that, the leaders of the African Union have shown commitment to the initiation of the AfCFTA by agreeing to commit 90% of all products that emanate from their respective countries, but will take exclusivity to 10% of cargoes termed as sensitive cargo.
“Sensitive cargoes are cargoes that some countries may want to protect and form a ring fence around it to ensure the manufacturing of those products in their country are not affected. These sensitive cargoes would be negotiated on bilateral basis,” he explained.
Carlos Ahenkorah opined that he believes that the AFCFTA protocol would experience enforcement unlike previous protocols like the Ecowas Trade Liberalization Protocol which has failed to see strong implementation.
“The previous protocol we are talking about did not have the resolution mechanism enshrined in that protocol. The West African countries relied on diplomatic means in solving every situation that would arise from trade practice. Unfortunately this is working.”
The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, whose outfit is charging the local drive to take advantage of the AFCFTA, said the Government of Ghana, has committed to an industrial transformation agenda that would make sure Ghana has the enabling environment to produce and manufacture.
He said the Ministry of Trade, has been very committed to presenting Ghana as a viable place for foreign investors to come and collaborate for the creation of production companies.
“Foreign investors previously had shied away from Africa because of the unavailability of litigation-free lands. What we are currently doing is to acquire portions of lands all over the regions and develop them into enclaves where factories can peacefully settle in to produce. Today, the Ministry of Trade is moving from a free zones era to special economic zones to encourage people who do not only want to export but manufacture and target local consumption,” he revealed.
He also urged Ghanaians to collaborate with foreign investors to set up production companies that would add value to our products.
“It is reasonable that people have to plan and develop this concept to a certain level and gain full advantage of what this project holds for us.”
On the issue of varying standards among African states as a potential impediment to the movement of goods, the deputy minister asked Ghanaian producers to take up the responsibility of knowing the standards of their target market before they produce.
The African Continental Free Trade Area is an agreement adopted by African leaders to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.