Sustainable growth hinges on youth empowerment – GFZA’s deputy CEO


Youth empowerment remains the surest bet to make economic development sustainable, deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Free Zones Authority (GFZA), Kate Djankwei Abbeo, has said.

Given that youths represent the future, she said, real economic growth can only be realised when young people are empowered to take up opportunities within the economy.

To do this, Ms. Abbeo – who was speaking in Accra during a panel discussion at the 2023 edition of the Ghana Economic Forum (GEF) on the topic ‘Looming global recession? A myth or an awakening reality considering present challenges facing the financial sector and the business environment’ – called for holistic policy measures and interventions aimed at maximising the productive potential of the country’s youthful population.

“We have a very skillful, trainable, agile and youthful population. And it is truly a rich resource that we have not actually exploited,” she said.

“I think for a long time our economy has been carried to where it is by cocoa farmers. We need to have innovative ways of earning the hard currencies,” Mrs. Djankwei Abbeo stated, emphasising that the country’s future rests on intentionally supporting youth-led ideas.

Importance of SMEs

Mrs. Djankwei Abbeo further touched on the importance of having strong small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) if the country is to fully take advantage of opportunities created by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). More than 90 percent of the country’s private sector businesses are SMEs

Against this backdrop, she said: “It is imperative that we genuinely engage with them, understand their needs and recognise that not all of them require funding. Some may simply need better access to markets. It’s important to note that we have all committed to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which is headquartered right here.

“How are we taking advantage of this new-found market access? We should leverage this position by actively engaging with our SMEs to understand their real needs. Some will indeed require funding, while others may need guidance and support to capitalise on the available market opportunities,” she added.

The commencement of AfCFTA creates the world’s largest free trade area. The AfCFTA pact links 55 countries, uniting 1.3 billion people and boasting a collective gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4trillion.

Moreover, it holds the promise of uplifting 30 million individuals from extreme poverty. However, realising its full potential hinges on the implementation of substantial policy reforms and facilitation of trade.

2023 Ghana Economic Forum

Themed ‘Building Back Better: IMF Support, Strategies to Build a Sustainable Economy and Dynamic Business Environment’, this year’s GEF consisted of three sessions – each designed to highlight the key areas of focus in the country’s efforts to restore economic growth and stability.

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