A man sits outside the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat office in Accra, capital of Ghana, August 17, 2020. Ghanaian President on Monday handed over the edifice housing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat to the African Union (AU) for the commencement of work. (Ghana Presidency/Handout via Xinhua)

The handing over of the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, on August 17, is one of the major economic stories in the year 2020.

Trading under the AfCFTA was originally planned for July 1, 2020, but it was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and now expected to commence full implementation from January 1, 2021.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo handed over the Secretariat at a short ceremony in Accra.
A market of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $3 trillion offer a huge opportunity to exploit the abundant wealth and resources of the continent for the benefit of all its people.

Despite the devastating effects of COVID-19 on African economies, AfCFTA Secretary-General, Mr Wamkele Mene, said an opportunity existed to establish robust supply and value chains for Africa as well as diversify the continent’s productive capacity, particularly from the overreliance on the export of primary commodities.

Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses

The shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic had considerable impacts on Ghanaian businesses, forcing many firms to cut cost by reducing staff, hours, cutting wages, and in some cases, laying off workers.

This is according to results from a new COVID-19 Business Tracker Survey conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank.

The results show that about 770,000 workers (25.7 per cent of the total workforce), had their wages reduced and about 42,000 employees were laid off during the country’s COVID-19 partial lockdown.

The pandemic also led to reduction in working hours for close to 700,000 workers. In view of this, Government of Ghana introduced diverse supports for businesses, including; the establishment of a Coronavirus Alleviation Programme to protect jobs, livelihoods and support small businesses.

Government also had a GH¢600 Million Stimulus Package to small and medium scale enterprises.

The data also showed that during the lockdown, about 244,000 firms started adjusting their business models by relying more on digital solutions, such as mobile money and internet for sales.

Firms within the agriculture sector and other industries used relatively more digital solutions (56 per cent), with establishments in the accommodation and food sector being the least that adopted digital solutions (28 per cent).

Generally, the results indicated that during the country’s COVID-19 partial lockdown, businesses received shocks in supply and demand for goods and services.

Close to 131,000 businesses had challenges accessing finance and expressed uncertainty in the business environment.

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