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Opinions of Sunday, 23 August 2020

Columnist: Mustapha Sanah

AfCTA’s birth, President Akufo-Addo deserves commendation

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the opening of AfCTA secretariat President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the opening of AfCTA secretariat

The month of August saw Africa making a bold step to break a historic barrier that militated against its progress and the development of its people. At the centre of this milestone is Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

He is a strong believer of history and I realised these traits in him due to the nature of projects his government implements.

Role of Ghana in the struggle

It is worthy to indicate that Ghana, being the first sub-Sahara Africa nation to attain self-rule some 63-years ago, played a pivotal role in the liberation struggles of other sister countries within the continent, including a pioneering role in the formation of the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) which has morphed into Africa Union Commission today.

The political freedom across many countries in the continent did not translate much into economic progress and transformation for the development of the continent’s member-states. Conflicts, underdevelopment, high illiteracy, staggering poverty and unemployment bedevil the predominantly youth and budding population.

The leaders of the continent set development targets way beyond their constitutional limits, mostly to avoid being accountable. Aside shifting opportunities and advantages available to the youth and state economies to the outside world, the leaders also failed to realistically diagnose the problems of the continent and develop home grown solutions to spur economic development.

At the inauguration of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area office, the Africa Union leadership, together with frontline trade and investment actors within the continent confirmed Accra, Ghana’s capital as the headquarters of AfCFTA Secretariat.

This is after President Akufo-Addo handed-over AfCFTA Secretariat Building to Moussa Faki, African Union Commission Chair.

The work of Ghana government in the smooth transition of the interim Secretariat of the AfCFTA from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to the permanent Secretariat in Accra, is an indication of Ghana’s desire to trail the blaze of Africa’s new moves to economic liberation.

In 2018, when the idea of Africa Continental Free Trade was discussed in Kigali by the Africa Union member states, I do remember a colleague of mine doubting the realisation of the dream in view of his frustration of the continent’s leaders inability to proffer any practicable and actionable solutions to our problems.

President Akufo-Addo, supported by his ministers for foreign affairs and trade and industry, demonstrated real leadership and their avowed faith in the strength of intra-Africa trade and investment as the cardinal pillars in the continent’s economic transformation drive.

From January 2021, there is going to be a shift in how trade is done in Africa. Member states of AU who have not join the train must all work to ratify the agreement as quickly as possible to pave way for this important new trade relations, since COVID 19 pandemic, with its attendant challenges of disruptions, has underscored the urgency for such free continental trade relations among sister nations in Africa.

It is time to harness and leverage on Africa’s 1.2 billion market, which ultimately could be the biggest trading and market block globally. It has a combined GDP of $3 trillion that could connect the continent as never before in our history.

It is tragic to note that aside the low trading links among AU member countries which currently stands below 17 per cent, most of our routes connecting the continent’s major capital cities are inaccessible. Sometimes travelers ought to cross over other continents before they could access other cities within the continent.

Consequently, one wonders without integration, how the continent can overcome its myriads of challenges.

The agreement would discourage the fragmented member states’ markets and create a single market which leads to economies of scale and crown the 54-member AU block as the single largest market platform in the world.

Growth of small and medium businesses would triple and increase in opportunities for regional value chains and cross border investments.

Economic diversification and industrialization would be amply promoted which will attract ‘real and valuable’ direct foreign investment into the continent.

Therefore, these strategic trade relations among member states of the AU with potential of $35billion annual increase in intra-trade would boost rapid economic growth and provide the youth of the continent with abundance of opportunities to give meaning to the dream of United States of Africa.

National governments of AU member states must now begin to show greater interest in aligning their nation’s developmental priorities and programmes to fit into this laudable opportunity by investing in the right growth poles and infrastructure like energy, agriculture, transport and ICT to provide the impetus to rake in the AfCFTA opportunities.

Undoubtedly, healthy and friendly environmental regimes conducive for rapid private sector growth and active participation would be the key to facilitating the constant patronage of AfCFTA.

It will also bolster the continent’s resilience to outside trade manipulation and support collective desire to break the trade and economic barriers that reduce the value of our political freedom from imperialist’s control.

President, being a strong advocate of Pan African ideals, deserves our support and commendation for using our country to promote the ideals of continental trade integration and unity to fight the endemic poverty in Africa and unleash opportunities for the continent’s people, especially the unemployed youth.

January 2021 will be a turning point for Africa as AfCFTA comes into effect.
The writer is a development management specialist and executive chairman of Northern Development and Democratic Institute (NDDI) Ghana, in Tamale, member of the Board of four private corporate bodies that serve as the external relations advisor to the King & Overlord of Dagbon, Ya-Na Abukari II.