Trade experts in Ghana have raised some concerns that need to be addressed in order to enjoy a successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, following the handing over and commissioning of the AfCFTA Secretariat by the President of Ghana.
The African Continental Free Trade Area is intended to create a single continental market for goods and services as they move freely within the region.
Speaking on Eye on Port, Trade Practitioner and the Executive Director of the AfCFTA Policy Network, Louis Afful, expressed concern over a current dilemma facing the Ghana government on deciding the appropriate timeline for opening the borders amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He proposed that government should deploy some mitigating interventions which will ensure that workers of the secretariat come in safely.
“I feel we have to put in mitigating factors first. If you look at other countries like the UK, they set up quarantining processes for people coming in,” Louis Afful explained.
The National President of the Borderless Alliance, Mr. Ziad Hamoui, however revealed that relevant ministries of ECOWAS member-states have been engaged on such protocols, but raised concern over lack of harmonisation in the easing of restrictions at the borders.
“I would have wished that the various countries of the ECOWAS region would have moved together on that. Unfortunately, for the past few weeks – because of the delay in meetings of the Heads of States, in order for a direction all the countries should go be decided together – there have been a few birds that have broken away from the flock. Cote D’Ivoire, for example, has announced the opening of its airport,” he disclosed.
Mr. Ziad Hamoui emphasised that the silver-lining in delay of the implementation due to the current public health crisis is that governments can have time to improve the quality and diversification of production for goods in member-countries, in preparation toward overall intra-continental trading.
“It has also created an opportunity to start working on enhancing the quality of some of our production, for example with that of the personal protective equipment, liquid soap and sanitisers,” he said.
The Secretary General for the International Chamber of Commerce-Ghana, Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, on the same programm expressed that aside from the theoretical framework there is an enormous volume of work the Secretariat has to engage in on the ground to ensure a successful implementation.
He listed issues surrounding rules of origin, tariffs and e-Commerce among others that need immediate addressing, and called for the setting up of sub-institutions to address these specific issues so that the continent can take advantage of the lessons learnt from the European Union.
“There’s a lot of work to be done. That’s why I would say that, as negotiations go on, there may be the need to not just look at technical working groups but that technical working groups should be turned into proper institutions.”
The Head of ICC Ghana also called for harmonisation of the various Customs systems for efficient movement of goods.
Emmanuel Doni-Kwame appealed for ongoing negotiations within the agreement to incorporate the e-Commerce industry, where he proposed harmonised communication rates that would positively impact the businesses of young African entrepreneurs.
“As a result, I would ask that those items on the agenda consider to bring issues that have to do with a harmonised regulation or framework for investment in communication infrastructure, so that at least the cost of data will come down,” he proposed.