Localisation and continental trade should become policy priorities of African leaders given the effects and lessons of the raging coronavirus pandemic, Fatima Alimohamed, chair of the agribusiness sector of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), has recommended.
Businesses and entrepreneurs need to be encouraged to produce what the country needs, she told Business24 in an interview, adding that boosting trading regionally is also the surest way to reduce dependency on the Western world.
“We have to now leverage what each country on the continent can do and make a cohesive continental plan. Our priority is now first to make Africa secure, and then others. Exporting raw materials needs to be a matter of the past. Replacing what we are importing with that which can be produced locally is key.”
According to the agribusiness expert, it is time for the government to aggressively champion the patronage and consumption of locally-produced goods to strengthen the capacity of home-made industries, which require such support to improve on their competitiveness.
“Our farmers need not only the support to produce, but also logistical [support], local agricultural inputs, and a market that protects them and encourages them to produce more, as the demand is there.”
The crisis has also presented some business opportunities that need to be leveraged, she said, emphasising that it is imperative to drive a localisation agenda to generate profits for local industries.
Explaining further, she said: “Belgium produces the world’s most expensive chocolate, and they have the world’s best chocolate crafters—but guess what, they don’t have a single cocoa tree.
We and Ivory Coast are two of the world’s largest players and suppliers of the raw material, yet we can’t make a huge profit on it! The narrative must change and the time is now. The scales must tip as Africa is at an advantage for being the world’s food basket, yet our people die looking for a meal a day.”
Meanwhile, the AGI has commended government for engaging local manufacturers to produce GH₵3.6m worth of face masks, in addition to announcing GH₵600m to provide soft loans to SMEs and extending due dates for filing taxes.
AGI leaders have said they look forward to further engaging with the government on the modalities for effective implementation of these interventions.