COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to deepen intra-African trade

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A strong advocate for intra-African trade because of the manifold benefits it holds, David Ofosu-Dorte – Executive Chairman of law firm AB & David, is positing that African countries should position themselves well in commerce, so as to be known for the distribution of certain goods and services throughout the trans-national companies’ global network to maximise profit.

Speaking to the B&FT, Ofosu-Dorte noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the perfect opportunity for African states to improve on local production. Since outbreak of the pandemic, Ghana has found the need to rely on local producers for PPE, masks and hand-sanitisers, which means we need to see how we can domesticate a lot of our purchases and use public procurement as one of the tools to grow our industries.

He is of the firm conviction that Africa must adopt an inward-looking trade strategy post COVID-19, so as to help boost the continent’s industrialisation agenda. Indeed, a robust intra-African trade regime is hinged primarily on the production of goods and services, which entails increased industrialisation.

In a situation like what is at stake now, he believes African leaders must coordinate properly and ensure they are helping each other during these difficult times.

If Ghana had the capacity to produce items like PPE, masks and sanitisers to scale, we would be in a good position to export same to countries on the continent – given the need for such items to combat the virus properly without having to rely on supplies from outside, which have also proved to be in limited supply.

Securing free trade throughout the continent has the potential to kick-start Africa’s industrial revolution and develop its economy in ways never before seen. Currently, only 18 percent of exports from African countries are traded within the continent.

By comparison, intra-regional trade accounts for 69 percent and 59 percent of total exports in Europe and Asia respectively.

The United Nations Economic Commission on Africa estimates that under the AfCFTA, intra-African trade could increase by 52.3 percent by 2022.

All rich countries have taken the same path to development. They all went through a period of industrialisation, during which the population that had predominantly worked in agriculture (as most Africans do today) moved to cities for better-paid factory work.

Ofosu-Dorte’s passion is well-placed, and that is what African countries must be targetting at as we seek to implement AfCFTA sometime this year.

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