Vice President Dr. Mahamadou Bawumia has emphasised the need for member-countries participating in the continental trade pact to collaborate and integrate, as a lack of that will retard any progress governments are making to recover their respective economies from the pandemic.
Speaking at the launch of the 2021 African Transformation report themed ‘Integrating to Transform’, organised by the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), Dr. Bawumia stressed how collaboration and integration will be key to success for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, saying countries must come together to overcome the known challenges which can hamper progress of the trade deal.
“My experience during the COVID crisis has made the urgency and importance of collaboration very clear. A continental economic recovery and transformation is only possible with enhanced collaboration and further integration. The pandemic has held back transformation across Africa, but also provided opportunities for acceleration in areas such as digitalisation.
“This can function in collaboration and shared challenges. This is why we are so honoured that Ghana was selected to host the secretariat for the AfCFTA. Without doubt, the AfCFTA has potential to be the gamechanger for post-COVID recovery and transformation if we can harness its numerous benefits. The scale and scope of acquiring these benefits depend on overcoming inadequate related infrastructure, inadequate production capacity, trade development finance, trade information, and market integration,” he said.
The Vice President used the opportunity to comment on what government is putting in place to ensure the country has adequately prepared to take on trade with Africa.
“The government of Ghana has also recognised the importance of addressing these crucial issues. The need to generate productive employment, support digital innovation, and manage climate risks. Our policies have been developed from the outset with the mindset of transformation.
“This is reflected through education initiatives such as Free Senior High School; our industrialisation agenda anchored around One District, One Factory; and our agriculture blueprint carried through the Planting for Food and Jobs and Rearing for Food and Jobs programmes.
“We have also seen digitisation and the leveraging of technology through every human activity as essential to our transformation agenda… Digital innovations will play a major role in implementation of the AfCFTA and countries’ ability to seize the opportunity,” he said.
Commenting on the report, Founder and President of ACET, Dr. Kingsley Y. Amoako, said the pandemic has awakened the need for Africa to become integrated and fight for its common good; hence, his outfit decided to come up with recommendations for governments to explore in ensuring a smooth integration process that will work to benefit the continent.
“Integrating to Transform explores the critical need for African countries to increase collaboration and work together, across borders, to tackle shared challenges; harness regional opportunities; and enable economies to scale –– and in turn accelerate Africa’s economic transformation. Despite the serious challenges and economic uncertainties facing Africa right now, we are in a unique moment.
“Regional integration has long eluded our continent, but we are seeing progress. The African Continental Free Trade Area has come into effect this year, for example, and it offers a pathway for countries to advance integration beyond trade and markets. Pressing pan-African issues such as jobs and education, digital connectivity, climate change, infrastructure and energy need to be addressed in a collaborative way, not by countries working in isolation.
“Over the past year, we have seen the positive impact of governments working together as African leaders responded boldly to the pandemic to save lives. We see an opportunity for a similar approach, guided by visionary leadership, to enable transformative growth,” he said.
Senior Fellow at ACET, Prof. John Asafu-Adjaye, also empahised the role digitalisation can play in the economic transformation of Africa, saying: “With the right policies, they can be leveraged to transform entire economies.
“We can do this by formulating strategies and policy frameworks to promote multiplier effects across the value chain; developing a new policy mix with key stakeholders to respond to pressing digital, innovation and development challenges, and boosting investments in digital infrastructure and skills development by crowding-in donor and private finance.”