A call has been made for all stakeholders, especially the business community, to come on board in nurturing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at this teething stage to attain its full potential of promoting one integrated Africa with one single currency within an enlarged trading area, having one single market as well as the free movement of people, goods, services and capital.
The concern was expressed by Mad. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, in a keynote address read on her behalf by Mr. Peter Taylor, Director (Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration at the 17th Ghana-Africa Business Awards ceremony organised by Top Brass Ghana under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry.
She noted that today, with AfCFTA, Africa looks stronger and better positioned to take advantage of the gains from global trade negotiations. The free trade area that AfCFTA provides, comprising over 1.3 billion people, and with a combined GDP of over US$1trillion, is a game-changer.
Mad. Ayorkor Botchwey observed that recent international challenges, not least the Russia-Ukraine war and the global economic crises, have equally underscored the need for Africa to minimise its unhealthy reliance on imported food items and agricultural inputs, among other things, and to increase intra-Africa trade and investment.
To take full advantage of the free trade, the minister pointed out that government has prioritised industrialisation to promote rapid economic growth, provide considerable job opportunities and eliminate poverty, and it is therefore incumbent on Ghanaians to leverage on the abundant natural resources the country is endowed with and diversify the economy through the production of value-added goods for the export market as well as localising manufacturing by developing new factories.
She indicated that it is against this background that government, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, launched a comprehensive Ten-point Plan for Industrial Transformation which includes One District One Factory (1D1F); stimulus package for Existing Local Industries; Industrial Parks and Special Economic Zones; Small and Medium Enterprises Development; Export Development to aggressively promote value addition and Public-Private Dialogue, with the aim of making Ghana the new manufacturing hub for Africa.
To ease the burden in doing business, the minister stated that government has also taken steps, such as the introduction of the Business Regulatory Reforms (BRR), to overhaul the regulatory system while maintaining fiscal discipline and promoting better transparency and accountability to bolster investor confidence. It was the minister’s hope that those measures could be replicated by all African stakeholders as the overall objective for establishing AfCFTA is not only to boost intra-African trade, but also to pursue the African Union’s industrialisation drive to transform Africa’s economy, in line with the Agenda 2023.
The Awards Dinner was presided over by Kwadwo Asante, Member of Parliament for Suhum and Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs who deputised for Johnson Kweku Adu, Vice-Chairman of the Select Committee.
Mr. Asante commended the award-winners for promoting the development of Ghana through their business transactions with the rest of Africa, noting that trade between African countries was very low compared to trade between the African trading bloc and the rest of the world.
He expressed the hope that the launch of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Initiative will witness a reversal of this trend, and that the African continent will experience increased trade and investments among member-states.
According to Mr. Isaac Dakwa, Director of Top Brass Ghana, the Ghana-Africa Business Awards Scheme was instituted in 2004 under the auspices of the Ministry of Regional Co-operation and NEPAD and subsequently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration to commemorate Africa Day (25th May) and to honour enterprises which make significant contributions to Ghana’s development through the promotion of trade, investment and other economic relations between Ghana and sister African countries.
He disclosed that the establishment of the awards scheme, under the theme ‘Accelerating Ghana’s Economic Development through Increased Intra-African Trade and Investment’, was informed by the realisation, as captured in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD Initiative), that Africa can accelerate its own development through increased economic exchanges among African countries themselves.
The distinguished award-winners included Access Bank Ghana (Financial Services/Banking); Adansi Travels Limited (Tourism/Travel and Tours); Carmeuse Lime Products (Ghana) Limited (International Trade/Export); De Don Company Limited (Investment Promotion/Agro-Processing); FBNBank Ghana Limited (Financial Services/Banking); H2 Solutions Africa Limited (Investment Promotion/Technology); Keda (Ghana) Ceramics Company Limited (International Trade/Export); and Promasidor Ghana Limited (International Trade/Export).
Other award-winners were Riepco Ghana (Mining Support Services); Samartex Timber & Plywood Company Limited (Free Zone Operations/ Wood Processing); Solar Nitro Ghana Limited (Mining Support Services); Sunda Ghana Investment Company Limited (International Trade/Export); Sunda Ghana Limited (International Trade/Export); and Zoomlion Ghana Limited (Environmental Services).
The topmost Platinum Award was conferred on AngloGold Ashanti Ghana Limited (Investment Promotion/Mining) and Plot Enterprise Ghana Limited (Free Zone Operations/Cocoa Processing).