The maiden Hybrid Business Conference organized by CCI France Ghana was held Tuesday 6th October at Labadi Beach Hotel. This event, after the radio silence effect observed during the sanitary pandemic, focused on the topic “What does AfCFTA mean to Ghana”, gathered about 120 business executives and policy specialists across varied sectors on site and about 20 participants via the official virtual platform.
The event started with an opening keynote address delivered by Madam Anne-Rita Solano, Managing Director, CCI France Ghana. The first panellist, Dr. Joseph Atta-Mensah was introduced as the Principal Policy Advisor in Macroeconomics and Governance Division for United Nations Economics Commission for Africa (UNECA).
The first part of this presentation focused on What AfCFTA means to Ghana?
The speaker began with an introduction of the abbreviated term AfCFTA – African Continental Free Trade Area, its potential and welfare implication on trade. As a brief introductory to the main topic, Mr. Atta-Mensah provided a brief history of the trade agreement saying AfCFTA started in 2012, where Heads of African states gathered in Ethiopia with a common goal to accelerate and deepen regional integration through trade.
In 2019, the decision to establish the AfCFTA agreement took place in Kigali, Rwanda and has to date 54 countries signed and 30 countries ratified, he added. He further provided a more detailed outline of this trade agreement stating that the AfCFTA trade agreement 2 phases. Phase one contains 3 parts namely Protocols on Trade Goods, Services and Dispute Settlement, while Phase two is presently under negotiation.
Each protocol under Phase one focuses on an agreement that enhances intra-African trade with lower tariffs, removed barriers, mechanisms for dispute resolution, all leading to the harmonization of custom protocols.
The next chapter for presentation focused on the reason for the creation of AfCFTA: What AfCFTA means to Ghana? Atta-Mensah elaborated on this query by adding that, for Ghana to benefit from trade, there is the need for the country to assess its measuring ambitions and exploit commodities and services that require manufacturing and production, in order to add value to the finished product as opposed to the present day export of raw commodities; gold, cocoa and timber.
Following his proposition, the speaker mentioned what the expected impact of this trade agreement should have on exports with the major affected sector being agriculture. The main approach to boost trade in the agricultural sector is via agricultural mechanization to increase production that should provide food security and simultaneously lower Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the long term, he added.
This proposed approach should have an impact on the intra-regional trade thereby increasing export volumes, lowering tariffs, and increasing trade creation at $82 million with trade diversion estimated at $66 million. Prior to his final remarks, Atta-Mensah mentioned what it means for Ghana to have the AfCFTA secretariat established locally; in essence to serve a financial hub and an avenue for business opportunities.
He pointed out the main elements that should support the implementation of this trade agreement namely: Monetary policies, Financial Stability and Fiscal Policy. In his conclusion, he emphasized on the need for Ghana to invest in skills training of the younger and growing generation to increase production volume and lower unemployment challenges.
This detailed presentation as facilitated by the first speaker received questions from participants prior to the second session of the presentation.
The second part of the presentation was facilitated virtually by Mr. Ziad Hamoui, National President for Borderless Alliance West Africa and Executive Director of Transport and Operations at Tarzan Enterprise Ltd.
The facilitator’s presentation focused on the role of the young generation in the AfCFTA region. Hamoui elaborated on the opportunities and challenges currently available for Regional Economic Integration, stating that Africa has a huge potential in terms of trade.
However, there is the need to conduct a comparative analysis between private enterprises and policy makers to strike a balanced common ground for both entities to work together to enhance trade benefits, he added.
The volume of intra-African regional trade is estimated at 15.4% and this indicates the opportunity for local businesses to develop strategies that will aid trade acceleration and increased volume in production. The creation of this trade agreement – AfCFTA provides an immense opportunity for the youth to develop their skills to compete within the African region and with competitors from developed countries, he said.
In his final remarks, the facilitator mentioned that AfCFTA is a key that should drive regional integration between African countries in terms of trade, and this could be achieved through enhanced manufacturing and production of raw materials processed into more valuable commodities for sale on the market.
This session as led by Hamoui also received very thought-provoking queries from the audience, with each concern thoroughly addressed.
To conclude, the opening of the AfCFTA secretariat in Ghana has received positive response yet minimal access to information to the public. The hybrid business conference organized by CCI France Ghana was as such an effort to introduce AfCFTA to our members and associates as well as what it means to the varied sectors and businesses across and the impact and benefits in the long run.