AfCFTA must takeoff regardless of pending protocols – AGI CEO

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CEO of AGI, Seth Twum-Akwaboah,

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Seth Twum-Akwaboah, has said the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), slated for January 2021, cannot be put on hold for everything to be ready.

With barely two months for the continental agreement, with a potential to unite 1.3 billion people, in a US$2.5 trillion economic bloc, to become fully operational, Mr. Akwaboah says trade must proceed as planned while the processes continue to complete unresolved protocols.

He noted, for instance, the issues of currency adoption for trade, dispute resolution mechanisms, in additions to a number of protocols which are being developed and finetuned for the successful realization of the agreement. He said a lot of things have already been done by the continental bloc, African Union (AU), and expressed confidence that the AfCFTA Secretariat has been established to ensure that all these concerns are properly ironed out.

“If you don’t establish a secretariat for trading to start you will not be able to finish and complete all these and other aspect [of the agreement] that makes it fully complete. So, I don’t think that we should ever have the idea that everything should be ready before we start,” he said, stressing that trading must commence and, in the process, take advantage to address emerging issues.

Mr. Akwaboah, who was speaking in an interview with B&FT, at the sidelines of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of AGI, Ashanti, Bono and Ahafo regions, noted that AfCFTA is a tool for transformation and development. Its introduction, he said will facilitate the Ghana’s industrial development.

However, he conceded that, “In all, no country has ever finished it’s industrial preparations. It’s a dynamic thing. What is important is that as a country we need to have our strategy” which among other interventions are being worked out by the Ministry of Trade.

According to the CEO of AGI when all these are done, which will help provide the right interventions to businesses, it will help make local companies and businesses ready for the continental trade. He said the markets will not be necessarily flooded with goods by January 2021, at the start of AfCFTA, but given that the number of countries involved it will take some time to see brisk activities. However, he said the principle is that countries must get ready faster or risk having it market dominated by others.

Chairwoman of AGI, Ashanti, Ahafo, Bono and Bono East, Gyamfua Owusu-Akyaw, addressing members of the AGI at the AGM, noted that the year has been quite difficult for many businesses. She noted that despite all the plans and projections which were made prior, the outbreak of COVID-19 along with-it restrictions has brought devastating effect on businesses.

She said the fiscal policies that the government put in place at the beginning of the year could not impact positively on businesses because of the lockdown of the two major regions of the country during the second quarter of the year. She noted that AGI remains committed to leading the advocacy for its members for a friendly business environment “especially during this COVID-19 period and its effect on the ratified AfCFTA.”

The AGI, she added, has actively engaged the government and various stakeholders on how best to position member companies to take advantage of the AfCFTA. She observed that in building the competitiveness of existing local industries, the government made available stimulus packages through the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI).

She noted despite the stimulus package being aimed at sustenance of micro and small industries most industries in the medium sector did not benefit from the package and the few who did were not given the required amount to enable them fully revamp their businesses to the level they had hoped. “However, we would like to extend our profound appreciation to the government for at least meeting us half way.”

Against this backdrop, she appealed to the government to speed up the processing of funds for members who are yet to access the stimulus package and well as the MASLOC loans.

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