Heads of States in Africa have been urged to work at providing the needed transport infrastructure to engender connectivity to fast-track the implementation of the free trade agreement.
They have been asked to expedite investment into manufacturing of products through the identification and value addition to raw materials and create access to credit to promote business.
Trade unionists, Dr Joseph Obeng and Mr Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce-Ghana (ICC Ghana), said that would help in achieving the objective of the free trade.
They said this in separate interviews with the Ghana News Agency over the weekend on a year into the implementation of trade under African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and the way forward.
Mr Doni-Kwame indicated that the most important thing was for States to create an enabling environment for the private sector to have access to affordable credit so they could produce more manufactured products.
He noted that while AfCFTA guaranteed access to market, affordable credit to the private sector was critical to aid them enhance production and expansion.
Dr Doni-Kwame called for investment in infrastructural development and urged the Heads of States to ensure that: “There is intra country connectivity; be it rail, airlines, shipping lines, and once you have that, people know they can move their goods from one country to the other.”
He stated that: “Once you do this, apart from your indigenes manufacturing, you can also attract the necessary investment.”
Mr Doni-Kwame lauded the establishment of the Secretariat for the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), which he said would help reduce the cost of doing business and reduce the heavily dependent on the dollar for money transfers.
The World Bank had noted that the pact, connecting about 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillion had the potential to lift about 30 million people out of extreme poverty.
However, Dr Obeng, President of the Ghana Union of Traders (GUTA) said that could only be achieved through value addition to raw materials in member States with support of governments. He added that: “We’re better with intra-Africa trade, but the means of transportation is a difficult challenge that should be dealt with.”
He, therefore, said: “It is important to ensure that there’s easy flow of shipment of goods among ourselves, because trade facilitation means the cost, time and ease of doing business, and we must do our best to get these through the free trade.”
In addition, he called on the governments to double up efforts to ensure that the tariff free component of AfCFTA was achieved in time, noting that the 10 years period could derail the object of the initiative.
Dr Obeng said: “The driving force of AfCFTA is the free tariff. If the tariff free doesn’t look free, then it will be a challenge. If it has to be targeted over a period of 10 years before we can get this benefit of the tariff free, then it will not fast track the effort of the continental free trade.”
With AfCFTA, trade facilitation measures that cut red tape and simplify customs procedures would drive $292 billion of the $450 billion in potential income gains and help usher in the kinds of deep reforms necessary to enhance long-term growth in African countries. – GNA