Trade vulnerability prompts urgent AfCFTA utilisation

GSS trade
Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA

A recent report by the Ghana Statistical Services (GSS) has spotlighted the intricate dynamics of trade across the African continent, igniting discussions on the pressing need for economic diversification and the significance of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) initiative.

The release of the ‘Ghana 2022 Trade Vulnerability Report’ has shed light on the prevailing trade landscape, drawing attention to South Africa’s formidable position in intra-African trade. With exports reaching nearly GH₵15billion, South Africa retains a dominant role, influencing the direction of trade within the continent.

Ghana’s trade interactions, spanning both exports and imports, show a strong affinity toward European nations, accounting for over a third of all exports (35.9 percent) and imports (39.2 percent). Following closely is Asia, contributing 28.5 percent of exports and 37.2 percent of imports.

Notably, imports outweigh exports for all continents except Africa and North America. Specifically, exports to other African countries outpace imports by GH₵13.2billion while the margin narrows to GH₵6.8billion for North America.

The importance of regional ties becomes evident in Ghana’s trade relations with its neighbouring countries. The GSS report underscores the significant trade volumes exceeding GH₵1billion directed to each neighbouring nation, highlighting the vitality of these close partnerships.

However, concerns arise over Ghana’s reliance on a limited range of commodities and trade partners, leaving the country exposed to the volatile currents of the global market. The report advocates for a strategic pivot toward manufacturing and economic diversification, aiming to bolster Ghana’s trade resilience and create a more robust economic foundation capable of withstanding unforeseen shocks.

South Africa looms large as the chief export destination within the African continent, contributing substantially to trade revenue. With exports to South Africa valued at GH₵14.9billion, this figure dwarfs the second major destination, Burkina Faso, with GH₵4.6billion. Notably, gold remains a cornerstone of these exports, comprising a significant 89.9 percent of the commodities shipped to South Africa.

Intricacies emerge in Ghana’s trade relationships within the African sphere. South Africa takes the lead as the principal import trading partner, accounting for a staggering 23.8 percent of the total import value from African countries. Egypt follows closely with 14.3 percent. Remarkably, South Africa stands as the sole African trade partner exceeding imports worth GH₵3billion.

Trade dynamics illuminate the significance of mineral fuels and oils in the import scene. Substantial imports from South Africa, Togo and Nigeria are anchored in these products, underscoring the interconnected nature of Africa’s trade network.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) emerged as a transformative force, unifying the continent’s trade efforts toward balance and diversity. With a mission to establish a unified continental market among the African Union’s 55 member-countries and eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs), AfCFTA seeks to harness the potential of a population exceeding 1.3 billion and a combined GDP of around US$3.4trillion.

Ghana’s embrace of AfCFTA is palpable, evident through its issuance of the inaugural certificate of full commercial trading in 2022 to a ceramic tiles manufacturing firm. Under the banner of AfCFTA Guided Trade, this landmark initiative marks a pivotal stride toward meaningful trade relationships. Beginning with Ghana, Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania and Malawi, Guided Trade has recently extended its impact to Rwanda. The Rwanda Customs Division, operating under the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), received its first consignment of goods, bolstering AfCFTA’s role in cultivating regional trade ties.

In a bid to strengthen economic bonds and broaden trade horizons, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is collaborating with Ghana’s National AfCFTA Coordination Office (NCO) to organise a trade expedition in Tanzania in August 2023.

This strategic move aims to deepen economic collaboration between Ghana and Tanzania, manifesting in the ‘Ghana Expo 2023-Tanzania’. The event encompasses a comprehensive programme, encompassing exhibitions of goods from both nations, seminars, and panel discussions featuring esteemed personalities from both countries. These discussions will focus on driving economic development and fortifying bilateral ties.

The ‘Ghana 2022 Trade Vulnerability Report’ serves as an echoing reminder that while Ghana possesses robust regional trade connections, the nation’s journey toward trade diversification and active engagement with initiatives such as AfCFTA remains pivotal for enduring economic stability. As Ghana sets forth on this path, the tenets of collaboration, innovation and strategic planning will assume pivotal roles in shaping the nation’s trajectory amid the evolving landscape of African trade.

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