The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) has urged the Government to streamline information and communication on the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) for businesses to enable them to leverage the benefits of the trade agreement.
Mr Paul Kofi McCarthy, the Central Regional Chairman of the Association, said the sustainability of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) was not only for the AfCTA but an integral part of the government’s national development agenda through the Ghana ‘Beyond Aid’ vision.
He told the Ghana News Agency that many SMEs across the region were not familiar with the AfCFTA policy framework to align their activities to achieve the needed business growth.
“Many of our members are engaged in locally-made items, including fabrics, clothes and fashion accessories, shoes, bags, cosmetics, detergent, beverages and other edibles but lack knowledge of the benefits of AfCFTA.
“We need to know more about its support and focus. We need cheaper and more innovative trade finance products, trade policy, trade infrastructure, improved capacity, trade information and facilitation, market access for growth and expansion of SMEs for the country to thrive,” he explained.
Mr McCarthy recommended that SMEs be furnished with a more proactive policy environment and be encouraged to re-invest with cheaper capital for faster growth and expansion.
SMEs must also team up to undertake big ticket transactions that can profit Africa’s over 1.2 billion consumers by ensuring that products are quality and packaging top-notch to attract the attention of buyers.
They should ensure consistency in their businesses to sustain their client base and create niches for themselves, obey the trade rules in order not to miss the opportunities that the continental trade would bring.
“We can benefit from the AfCTA if we build a strong local trade force to compete favourably,” he said, adding that the government, will play its part and SMEs were expected to do the same.
On the cost of doing business, Mr McCarthy said the high cost of borrowing if not addressed by the government would place Ghanaian businesses in a disadvantageous position.
He suggested that government urgently compel the mainstream commercial banks to reduce loan rates, or risk having Ghanaian businesses lose out in the competition.
The effects of that, he said, would be the shortage of essential goods, price hikes, loss of revenue and massive unemployment.
“The banks usually explained that the high-interest rates are due to the higher risks associated with the failure of local businesses in honouring repayments of loans.
“But, such an excuse is not tenable. It is the responsibility of banks to do the due diligence needed before loans are disbursed,” he stated.