Stakeholders discuss potential of AfCFTA for SMEs

A stakeholder consultation aimed at improving framework conditions to unlock the potential of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana has been held in Accra.

Addressing participants on Friday, Mr Imran Shams Kwakye, Vice Chairman, Accra Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that economies of Africa were driven by the tenacious efforts of the private sector, especially the SMEs for which reason the AfCFTA would bring huge benefits to the economy of Africa.

He quoted the African Development Bank, as saying, “the private sector accounts for over 80 per cent of total production and provides jobs to about 90 percent of the employed working age population.”

Mr Kwakye said it was imperative that leaders and implementers of the AfCFTA paid particular attention to the right structures and policies that would accelerate the growth of SMEs.

He said that for AfCFTA to live up to its full potential, SMEs in Ghana would require massive support to compete with their counterparts within the sub region.

He indicated that the chamber had responded swiftly by building the capacity of its members in readiness for AfCFTA in areas such as, proper bookkeeping, legal education on company law, negotiation and alternative dispute resolution.

Other areas included, digital marketing, taxation and other best business management practices.

Meanwhile, Mr Kwakye underscored that SMEs were faced with challenges that hindered their opportunities to excel.

“A host of factors such as, access to finance, high lending rates, high cost of utilities especially energy, structural development such as, roads continued to be stumbling blocks to our growth thereby limiting our ability to take full advantage of the opportunities under AfCFTA,” he said.

Mr Kwakye, therefore, commended the leadership and team of Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) Africa and their funding partners the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), as well as other supporting institutions such as, the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the initiative.

For his part, the West African Director, CUTS International Accra, Mr Appiah Kusi Adomako, said there was the need for the private sector to produce at a competitive price in terms of quality.

“It’s an era of competition because now the consumer has access to the internet to choose between alternatives so if your commodities are expensive or not packaged well, they will patronise others,” he stressed.

Mr Adomako charged SMEs to adopt the right attitude towards their businesses and not blame government for their shortfalls, stating that “we need to improve on our private sector in terms of how we package goods, treat customers so that we don’t lose our local markets to the malls.”

Presenting a study on factors hindering the Ghanaian private sector from taking advantage of AfCFTA, Mr Isaac Yaw Obeng noted that the study recommended the acquisition of both domestic and internationally-recognised quality certification by SMEs in the country.

He also said that SMEs should sharpen their export marketing skills and expertise and enlarge their managerial and financial capacity for the export businesses, while introducing a new technology to improve their production process.

BY ABIGAIL ARTHUR AND ANITA ANKRAH

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