Odeneho Kwafo Akoto III, the Paramount Chief of Akwamu Traditional Area, has called on leaders to ensure the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) Agreement benefitted people on the Continent.
He expressed fears that the Trade Agreement would play into the hands of giant foreign economies instead of the local economies, and called on experts to discuss the natural difficulties associated with its implementation.
Odeneho Akoto said this when he chaired the 2019 Annual General Meeting of the Eastern/Volta/Oti regional branch of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) in Ho, on the theme: “Repositioning the Three Regions of Eastern, Volta and Oti for the African Continental Free Trade Area; Challenges, Opportunities and Recommendations”.
He called on industrialists in Africa to trade best practices and work together to fight cross border crime.
“I am excited that once again the Continent is leading in continental unity like the AU. But I would warn that the AU existed before the EU and other unions but we have very little to show for it,” he said.
“Our Free Trade Agreement must serve the interest of our people and not of the erstwhile colonists. This time we must come into our own. We would need to learn from best practices of other common markets and fight cross border crime and other illicit activities like smuggling, human trafficking, counterfeiting etc. That is your challenging job”.
He said the Volta, Oti, and Eastern regions must reposition themselves to make Ghana and the Continent proud by taking advantage of the rail and river transport from the coast to neighbouring Burkina Faso.
Mr Seth Twum Akwaboah, the Chief Executive Officer of the AGI, said Ghanaian industries must position themselves to dominate the market by producing more for local consumption and export to prevent the local market from being taken over by international ones.
He said the Association span 23 different sectors of the Ghanaian economy, and was on the heels of stakeholders to address challenges including the reduction in benchmark values, additional taxes and energy costs.
Mr Akwaboah said finance for Small to Medium Scale Enterprises also remained a hurdle, and that the AGI was in discussions with the Micro and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) to provide the needed support.
Mr Dela Gadzanku, the Chairman of the Volta/Eastern and Oti regional branches of the AGI, said the three regions were becoming strategic industrial points, and that the Association was working to ensure the Free Trade Agreement benefited all.
“The Free Trade Agreement will help lift many people from these regions out of poverty,” he stated.
Professor Stephen Adei, the Chairman, National Development Planning Commission, said the AfCFTA was a huge leap for trade and must work to lead the way to development within a few decades.
He said it would require efficiency in human resource and management, and called on the AGI to set up skill centres to enhance international trade skills and on stakeholders to strive towards dominating markets in neighbouring countries.
Dr Archibald Yao Letsa, the Volta Regional Minister, said businesses must brace themselves to endure the short-term challenges that came with trade policies.
Citations were presented to long serving members of the AGI and the Executive given another term of office in a popular acclamation.