Chairman of the World Trade Centre Accra, Togbe Afede XIV, has expressed worry about the unwillingness and reluctance shown by some African countries to collaborate; saying it is the biggest threat to success of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
In an interview with the B&FT, Togbe Afede XIV said the AfCFTA has the potential of being a game changer for the continent’s development, hence leaders must put aside selfishness so that the agreement benefits all.
“For me, the biggest threat to the Free Trade Agreement is ourselves. Africans need to eschew selfishness. Nigeria, for instance, has not signed – saying the agreement will not benefit local businesses, so it is protecting itself. But that is a mistake. The smaller African economies also feel they are too vulnerable and are therefore threatened by integration. On the other hand, the bigger economies feel they are okay and so why do they have expose their selves. But that is selfishness.
“We can all grow together—both small and large economies. And I believe that integration, collaboration makes us stronger because together we produce more than our individual productions put together.
“So, we have to eschew selfishness because it has become the bane to our development. To imagine that as many as eleven African countries have failed to rectify it is a shame. We are finding excuses not to come together, but that is a shame. Why can’t we come together to lift ourselves out of poverty?” he asked.
Heads of African States of the African Union (AU) adopted the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at a special summit in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21 this year (2018).
The AfCFTA is expected to boost consumer spending to about US$1.4trillion in 2020 and increase intra-African trade by as much as US$35billion per year, or 52 percent above the baseline by 2022.
Several leaders and experts have commended the move by African leaders to create a trading bloc that will ensure the free movement of goods and services as well as persons, saying it is a sure way to development.
African Union Commission Deputy Chairperson, Ambassador Kwesi Quartey, said it will create a lot of job opportunities and boost growth in Africa.
“The potential of Africa’s integration and intra-Africa trade are enormous if we are able to take advantage of the economies of scale, creation of job opportunities and generation of income, mobility of investment capital and exploring our consumer market of nearly one billion people,” he said.
“While the benefits are clear and widely acknowledged, there is also an underlying need to review the strategies to drive the intra-Africa trade and integration agenda, and whose successes would reinforce Africa’s place in the global economy and strengthen our bargaining power in international negotiations.”
Meanwhile, Vice-President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) Humphrey Ayim-Darke has expressed worry about the low capacity of local industries, urging government to come to their aid or risk losing on the agreement.
“Local enterprises do not have the right levels of empowerment; trade imbalances are going against us. To succeed under the AfCFTA, we will need to build the capacity of industry and other critical economic sectors and also address the various barriers to growth,” he told the B&FT in an interview.