The Union of African Shippers’ Council (UASC) has begun some critical engagements with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat on ways to accelerate economic growth of the continent through their various bodies.
As a result, an eight-country delegation is in Ghana to hold a series of meetings with key players involved in implementing the AfCFTA.
Apart from their engagement with the AfCFTA secretariat, they will visit the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Borderless Alliance and some trade facilitation agencies to better understand nuances of the AfCFTA and how trading has been since full implementation commenced on January 1, 2021.
The General Secretary of the UASC, Giscard Lilian Ogoula, in an interview with B&FT after a preparatory meeting organised by the Ghana Shippers’ Authority said: “We are in Ghana to build a long-lasting relationship with the AfCFTA. This long partnership is aimed at complementing our effort for achieving goals of the secretariat and the AfCFTA.
“The secretariat is here to implement the agreement, and the African Shippers’ Council is here to operationalise the agreement in terms of training, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation of non-tariff barriers, data collection among others.
“The Africa Shippers Council will be key in collecting data to help implementation of the AfCFTA. That is why we need to meet at this very high level to establish a good working relationship between the two bodies which will allow us to chart a clear way forward.”
He added that the UASC wants to get a better understanding of the state of AfCFTA implementation and forge some partnerships for smooth operations. “We are here in Accra to explore the potential for a Memorandum of Understanding with the secretariat, or directives which will be put in place by the secretariat that could help our members better understand and support implementation of the agreement.
“What must be known is that the Shippers Council has already put in some measures to ensure smooth and enhanced trading among African states, and these measures must be built on by the secretariat for success,” said Mr. Ogoula.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority, Benonita Bismark, noted that the week-long engagement will look at clarifying some of the challenges many countries are facing with implementation of the AfCFTA. She added that the delegation will also be sharing some good trade experiences on the continent, as well as making proposals on how to surmount some challenges being faced.
“East Africa has been able to ensure smooth transportation of goods from one country to another. In West Africa, that is not the case; we are counting more than 50 security barriers from Accra to Ouagadougou.
“What is East Africa doing that West Africa can learn from? These are the experiences we want to share with the AfCFTA. There are certain challenges, for example Rules of Origin; there is also a certain level of apprehension among investors as to what they are to expect in the near-future. Members need to know the right answers to give when they face any of these questions.”
The Chief Executive Officer of Congo’s Office for Multimodal Freight Management, Patient Sayiba Tambwe, also intimated that a well-coordinated platform is needed to accelerate the projected gains of the AfCFTA.
“We need a platform where the AfCFTA and Union of African Shippers’ Council can work together, so that shippers can share prospects of the Intra-Africa trade. It is important to note that Africa’s role in global trade is very minimal; the coming of the AfCFTA is critical so that we can increases trade among ourselves on the continent, and the Shippers’ Council has an important role to play to ensure that this succeeds.”
The eight-country delegation comprise Nigeria, Benin, Angola, Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon, Togo and Ghana.