AfCFTA could open up continent to African-Americans – Whitaker

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could open bigger market opportunities to African-American businesses looking to establish roots on the continent, Rosa Whitaker Duncan-Williams, President and CEO of The Whitaker Group (TWG), has said.

“I think that the continental African free trade agreement is one of the most significant things to happen on the continent this century. Because one of the reasons we are dealing with such poverty, lack of trade, infrastructure, is balkanisation of the region. Africa is most balkanised region of the world.

“The only solution that can advance our progress upfront is integration, and that is what the AfCFTA does for the continent and investors. If the African-American community were to be a country, it would be the 46th largest economy with a spending capacity of US$1.3billion. These are people who very much want to be connected to the homeland,” she said.

She was speaking to journalists at a dinner in Accra to celebrate African-Americans who participated in the Jametown to Jamestown trip – which retraced the movement of the first slaves from Jamestown, Accra-Ghana, to Jamestown, Virginia-USA. The trip forms part of the year-long ‘Year of Return’ programme.

Mrs. Duncan-Williams – a trade negotiation expert who negotiated the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which allows duty-free exports to the U.S. from eligible African countries – pointed out that despite the challenges which lay ahead, once the negotiations have begun the continent will see it through.

“I have talked to leaders across the continent and they are ready to do the work necessary and I am just honored and elated that Ghana was selected as the secretariat. I think the reason Ghana was selected is because you have distinguished yourself as an outstanding regional and international trading partner,” she added.

She stressed that if Africans can push through the agreement’s implementation, it could help connect Africa to African-Americans.

“These are mutually beneficial partnerships. I know some people have said the return of African-Americans is a stroke of genius for tourism; but, significantly, it is more than that because the discussions I have seen and the kind of partnerships that have been established and the collaborations are really priceless.

“We have a lot of capacity in the business sectors of both sides of the Atlantic, and I am so glad that Ghana is playing a leadership role in making this happen. We are building a new framework for African – African-American engagement, and we are building a new framework in definition of a 21st century pan-Africanism,” she added.

The ‘Year of Return 2019’ is a major landmark marketing campaign, targeting the African – American and Diaspora market to mark 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The Ghana Tourism Authority, and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, are coordinating the year-long calendar of activities in “celebration of the resilience of the African spirit”.

The AfCFTA provides an opportunity for Africa to create the world’s largest free trade area, with the potential to unite 1.3billion people in a US$2.5trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development. The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a continental market for goods and services with free movement of people and capital, and pave the way for creating a Customs union.

It will also grow intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation across the continent. The AfCFTA is further expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level – through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access, and better reallocation of resources.

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