The Ghana International Trade and Finance Conference (GITFiC), an institution championing the evolution of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), has been carefully monitoring and observing the operationalization of the AfCFTA.
According to the GITFiC, in December 2018, the first AfCFTA Intra-African Trade Fair was held in Cairo, Egypt. Business deals between private investors and business players were around $32 billion, which exceeded expectations.
The GITFiC also stated that in 2021, two Ghanaian companies, Kasapreko Company Ltd and Ghandour Cosmetics, under an AfCFTA Certificate of Origin, transported alcohol and cosmetic products to South Africa and Guinea respectively.
The GITFiC gathered that Rules of Origin (RoO) and its Certificate of Origin are very crucial components to facilitate trading under the AfCFTA.
The GITFiC believes that the AfCFTA can only achieve its goals if commitment is extended to the various components of the operations of the trading system. Hence, they applauded the African negotiation parties for sustaining the level of commitment.
According to the GITFiC, most African countries are yet to fully develop a comprehensive National AfCFTA Implementation Strategy, a situation which GITFiC finds rather disturbing.
The GITFiC stated that although countries may have existing trade policies and developed guidelines, it is not enough to maximize the full benefits of the AfCFTA.
Taking into consideration Cameroon’s draft strategy plan, the GITFiC motivates African Trade Ministers to intensify their efforts in reaching a great feat in the AfCFTA.
During one of GITFiC’s annual conferences, Accra was declared as the Commercial Capital of Africa, a decision that would position Ghana as a commercial hub in the sub-region.
In 2022, the GITFiC would undertake a sensitization exercise in Greater Accra Region, Greater Kumasi of the Ashanti Region, Takoradi of the Western Region, Tamale of the Northern Region, and Koforidua of the Eastern Region of Ghana to assess the private sector’s readiness for the AfCFTA’s implementation, and help develop a structural plan to address challenges identified.
According to a recent publication by the Bank of Ghana, the lending rates are as high as 24.8%.
The GITFiC believes that the Government of Ghana should critically investigate the asymmetric bank lending rate adjustment to enhance the competitiveness of the Ghanaian industry, as it launches into the African market.
The GITFiC realized that Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), a component of the AfCFTA, are often overlooked by trade watchers and analysts.
These barriers become a disincentive for trade. The GITFiC has observed that the AfCFTA Online Mechanism for monitoring, reporting and elimination of NTBs has been largely underutilized. Therefore, GITFiC recommends that the state parties must be given the necessary technical support to urgently establish the National Monitoring Committees and National Focal Points on NTBs.
In 2018, African heads of state adopted the Protocol Relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence, and Right of Establishment to enable Africans to freely move and work within Africa.
The Protocol is expected to serve in the interests of the African workers, entrepreneurs, and the large informal sector after 30 days, following the receipt of the 15th instrument of ratification.
However, only four countries on the continent have deposited their instruments of ratification at the AU depositary. Ghana is yet to ratify this Protocol.
According to GITFiC, keeping focused and maintaining the momentum could see the implementation of AfCFTA become one of Africa’s main weapons in combating COVID-19 and accelerating post-COVID recovery.
Therefore, GITFiC urges the AU and African Governments to take bold decisions to keep the AfCFTA on track despite COVID-19.
The GITFiC has also thrown its support for the African group at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the urgent need to grant a waiver to African countries to produce their COVID vaccines, a decision they made, believing in the collective strength of the Africans.
Taking into consideration the success of the AfCFTA, GITFiC recommended that government and policymakers must listen to and comprehend the subject of AfCFTA in the same way that businesses and stakeholders do.
They added that ECOWAS or other bilateral protocols should facilitate road and rail connections to neighbouring countries to boost regional trade and mutual economic benefits.
To ensure that the AfCFTA’s core rules of origin serve as an accelerator for industrialization rather than a constraint to growth and export diversification, GITFiC recommended articulating policy reforms to address supply-side constraints.
The GITFiC also emphasized the importance of reviving National Development Banks to increase the scale of patient capital and drive export diversification.
The 8-page Appraisal Paper for the month of December by the GITFiC encourages the continent’s Customs Union to speed up with the adaptation and implementation of the various list of items and its respective Harmonized Code System to pave way for a full recognition and acceptability for the successful movement of goods from one country to the other within the AfCFTA.