The National Coordinator of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Dr Fareed Arthur, has advised owners of businesses, as well as exporters, to add value to their commodities.
That, he said, would enable them to take full advantage of the AfCFTA and strategically place their commodities on the foreign market, especially in Africa.
Dr Arthur gave the advice when he addressed owners of businesses and exporters drawn from different parts of the Eastern Region on the implementation of AfCFTA at Koforidua last Friday.
The event brought together individual business owners, exporters and representatives from the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), EXIM Bank and the Ghana Export Promotion Authority.
The rest are Ghana Standard Authority (GSA), Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Ghana Enterprise Agency, Ghana Free Zones Authority and the academia.
Dr Arthur said entrepreneurs in the region were also to expand the production base of their products to produce more to remain competitive in the foreign market, particularly in Africa.
He said the implementation of AfCFTA with its headquarters in Accra offered huge opportunities for businesses in the region and the country as a whole to thrive.
According to him, AfCFTA was a big single market made up of 55 African countries with 1.4 billion people and producing more for the African market would make businesses in the Eastern Region thrive.
Dr Arthur said although AfCFTA offered a big opportunity for entrepreneurs to sell their products on the African market, most of the entrepreneurs were not aware of such opportunities.
He said entrepreneurs were, therefore, to be fully educated on the opportunities of AfCFTA to enable them to market their goods on the continent and earn more income.
Mr Arthur, however, reminded business owners to acquire from AfCFTA goods or products that would be readily accepted on the African market so that they would be guided and encouraged to place such goods on the African market.
Trade barriers removal
He stated that the AfCFTA policy framework was aimed at removing trade barriers between countries that had to do with tariffs and other border bottlenecks to facilitate and speed up processes of trading to make it easy and convenient for traders.
In an answer to a question about huge interest rates given out by banks in Ghana to business owners, Dr Arthur said AfCFTA was advising banks to support innovative products to make them easier to be marketed.
That, he explained, would make it possible for the producers or manufacturers to repay the loans without their businesses being affected.
“If you are a manufacturer or trader, you just don’t borrow money from the bank like a contractor but you borrow to market or sell the product that will enable you to pay back the loan,” Dr Arthur stated.
The Senior Advisor in charge of Capacity Building and Stakeholder Engagement, Jacob Gyamfi-Addo, who took the participants through the modalities of trading under AfCFTA, said the agreement aimed at eliminating tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods.
He said the objective of AfCFTA included eliminating trade barriers, promoting intra-African trade and the establishment of regional value chains in Africa to encourage investment and job creation.
He said for five to 10 years, 90 per cent of tariff lines traded under the AfCFTA would be liberalised while seven per cent would be designated as sensitive products to be liberalised.
Mr Gyamfi-Addo said the event provided stakeholders with an overview of the key milestone achieved so far, including the government’s initiatives that began in three years with Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which was about $3.4 trillion.
The Eastern Regional Minister, Seth Kwame Acheampong, who earlier welcomed the participants, said the region was well positioned to play a pivotal role in the realisation of the objectives of the policy framework.
He said the abundant natural resources together with the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, the Eastern Region was poised to become a driving hub in trade and commerce in Ghana.
According to the minister, it allowed the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) to collaborate effectively with AfCFTA Secretariat to identify the challenges and form partnerships that would drive the region’s economic growth and contribute to the country’s development.
Mr Acheampong urged all stakeholders in the region such as government officials, business leaders, academia and civil society organisations (CSO) to actively support the AfCFTA programmes.