The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is the greatest opportunity for African countries, including Ghana, to resolve the issue of youth unemployment, the Economics Advisor to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ghana, Mr. Udo Etukudo, has said.
He said the agreement is a medium through which Ghana can begin the process of expanding economic opportunities for everybody.
“Industries will have access to a larger trading market, which will lead to an increase in income generation – enabling additional investments and therefore the creation of jobs,” he said.
Mr. Etukudo said this at a meeting in Accra, adding that the AfCFTA is by far the most important programme in terms of trade, in terms of economic growth and development as well as poverty reduction for Ghana and the African Continent.
According to him, the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) which constitute about 80 per cent of firms in the private sector in Ghana are key to the country harnessing benefits of AfCFTA – particularly in the area of job creation for the teeming youth.
He said since these SMEs are found in Metropolitan, Municipal, District and Assemblies, the emphasis on MMDAs assimilating the AfCFTA into their regular implementation processes is critical.
He said the MMDAs must put in measures to ensure SMEs take advantage of opportunities provided by the free trade agreement to enhance local economic development.
“So, the effort of building the capacities of MMDAs is critical in ensuring that investments, indeed, will be able to find their way down to the sub-national level and the districts,” he added.
He also said the engagement with districts on AfCFTA forms part of the process for beginning the provision of advocacy in terms of developing guidelines for how young entrepreneurs and businesses in the private sector can to begin to take opportunities which the agreement brings.
He further stated that MMDAs must also be equipped to develop mentorship programmes for SMEs to help develop and prepare them to take advantage of the AfCFTA.
On his part, Head of the National AfCFTA Coordination Office of Ghana, Dr. Fareed Arthur, said establishing the AfCFTA is one of the most momentous decisions by the African Union, since boosting intra-African trade is critical for the continent’s economic development.
He said the agreement has been rectified by 54 African countries and eliminates tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade; establishes a framework for African countries to cooperate on investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy; and also enables cooperation on Customs matters and the implementation of trade facilitation measures.
According to him, Ghana as host of the AfCFTA secretariat has a huge responsibility to ensure its successful implementation and assist Ghanaian business to harness the agreement’s full benefits.
“Harnessing the benefits will not come as a right, but will require the creation of a strategically-focused enabling environment for all entrepreneurs and stakeholders to take advantage of the opportunities offered,” he said.
He disclosed that as part of government’s efforts to provide a framework for successful implementation, she has developed a National Policy Framework and Action Plan (NPFAP) that will be launched at the end of the year.