Member countries have been advised to be committed to the ideals of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
Dr. Fareed Arthur, Head of Ghana branch of the AfCFTA, said the cooperation of all was needed to deepen economic integration and stimulate the free movement of persons, goods and services.
It was imperative to create a single market within the bloc since a common market devoid of all trade barriers, was the way to go to encourage industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, he emphasized.
Dr Arthur was addressing a trade stakeholders’ conference in Kumasi organized jointly by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI), Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), AfCFTA Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
It was on the theme: “Unlocking the Potentials of Local Authorities to Harness the Benefits of AfCFTA.”
The programme targeted operators of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), policy analysts, Trade and Professional Associations and representatives from academia.
It aimed at deepening awareness of the AfCFTA and the agreement among local assemblies while enhancing planning capacity at the local level for effective participation.
The continental economic bloc was created in 2018 among 54 African countries and trade commenced on January 1, 2021.
AfCFTA is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Dr Arthur, highlighting some objectives underpinning the trade agreement, cited the establishment of a liberalized market, free movement of capital and people to facilitate investment and establishment of a future continental customs union.
Other considerations ranged from the achievement of sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, structural transformations within member states to enhancing the competitiveness of member states within Africa and in the global market.
Dr Arthur pointed out that the continent could create one big and vibrant economy to bring wealth and prosperity to the people.
The onus is on the signatories to the agreement to work assiduously to achieve the purposes for which the AfCFTA was established, he stated.
Dr Arthur believed that all these would help increase intra-African trade and minimize the dependence on foreign exchange to attract greater and direct foreign investment.
He entreated participants of the stakeholders’ conference to take serious topics discussed at the meeting to realize the objectives of the trade agreement.
Mr Silver Ojakol, Commissioner, AfCFTA Secretariat, said SMEs played an important role in cross-border trade and as such deserved the needed support to engender their effective operations.
Dr Kodjo Mensah-Abrampa, Director-General of the NDPC, said job creation, agricultural modernization, Information Communication and Technology (ICT) development and deepening of the necessary skills for the youth, particularly women, were crucial for development to thrive.
The UNDP, according to him, was working with its partners to measure the performance of MMDAs and their preparedness to support the private sector to grow.