Mr. Silver Ojakol, the Chief of Staff of the AfCFTA Secretariat, has called on producers on the African continent to consider the prospects of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).
He said the vast resources of the Continent alongside its large human population should encourage producers to come onboard the single market being offered by the AfCFTA, Africa’s most ambitious continent-wide trade consolidation initiative in modern times.
Mr. Ojakol, who was delivering the keynote address at the opening of the 6th Volta Trade and Investment Fair in Ho said the AfCFTA was to drive the development of the continent and that its seven protocols covered all areas of trade facilitation.
“The single market means local producers should up their game. They must scale up their trading game if they want to take advantage.
“Producers should look at a wider single market with a predictable trade regime,”he said.
Mr. Ojakol said the free trade area had the opportunity of the estimated 1.5 billion population with a GDP of US$3.4 billion and expected to hit 7 trillion by 2035.
Presently, only about 274 million hectares of its 874 million hectares of arable lands are being utilised and the Chief of Staff counted “large sums of strategic minerals.”
He said the strength of human resource adding to the other natural resources on the continent should drive a sustainable development agenda for Africa, noting that 80 per cent of the continent’s entrepreneurs were SMEs, which contributed a 40 per cent of cross border trade.
Mr. Ojakol added that the AfCFTA remained a catalyst for infrastructure development and had the efficiency to attract investors with resources in Africa to “drive the continental agenda.”
He said trade facilitation infrastructures such as the ambitious Abidjan-Lagos Highway project was a priority and that other initiatives, including harmonising standards and the conformity of local products to help facilitate cross border trade, were being undertaken.
The top official said programmes such as the Pan African Payment system being implemented would eventually eliminate dependence on foreign currencies for international trade, and that the AfCFTA Secretariat was working to get banks to support financial programmes curated for SMEs.
He said the AfCFTA focused on developing four industrial sectors, which include the automobile, pharmaceutical, transport and logistics, and agro processing, and that SMEs should consider that the “ideal value chain and tap into it.”
He commended the Volta Regional Coordinating Council and the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) together with their partners for organising the fair and said SMEs should use the opportunity to create business linkages.
“The AfCFTA has been a major development of our time, and we must together harness the opportunities that it creates.
“We might not get such an opportunity again. We must implement the agreement as it will contribute to lifting more than 100 million people out of poverty,” the Chief of Staff stated.
This year’s Volta Fair is on the theme “Leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area for Economic Development,” and more than 400 exhibitors and about 20,000 visitors are expected.
Dr. Archibald Yao Letsa, Volta Regional Minister, who had revived the fair in recent times, said, “these are times to showcase the strong investment potentials in Volta,” and that stakeholders were looking forward to providing export routes for businesses in Volta.
He said Volta was promoting a “one district one export product” initiative under the AfCFTA, and that all must work together to promote investments that would protect the ecosystem of a richly endowed Region.
“Sustainable industrialisation must be the next stage of our industrialisation. The vision is to become a production and exporting economy and we can turn our economic potential in Volta around.”
Present at the opening ceremony were high level dignitaries such as the national leadership of the Association of Ghana Industries, several envoys from various African continents, and Africa’s youngest MP and Minister from Namibia.
Ms. Emma Theofulus, the Namibian top official, who is Deputy Minister for Information, Communication and Technology, and was a special guest, said Africa should be able to leverage its resources to develop, and called for structures to drive trade and integration across the continent.