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Frontline institutions urged to be ready for AfCFTA takeoff

By: By Ama Amankwah Baafi
 Ms Dorothy Ng’ambi Tembo, Acting Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (left) speaking during her visit to Ghana. Seated by her is Dr Afua Asabea Asare, CEO of GEPA
Ms Dorothy Ng’ambi Tembo, Acting Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (left) speaking during her visit to Ghana. Seated by her is Dr Afua Asabea Asare, CEO of GEPA

The Acting Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), Geneva, Ms Dorothy Ng’ambi Tembo, has urged African countries to ensure that institutions at the forefront of private sector development are well positioned to adapt to the different evolving situations.

She said as the region seeks to operationalise the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), trade tensions are arising and so, the region needs to forge ahead to ensure that the multilateral system is retained, while Africa see it as an opportunity to position itself well.

“It is important to forge ahead to give the institutions that will anchor this vision an opportunity to be able to respond to the different target groups that we are looking at supporting in the context of operationalising the AfCFTA.

“The Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) is a better partner that we have identified,” she stated during her visit to Ghana on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, ahead of the 13th World Trade Promotion Organisations (WTPO) conference, scheduled for May 27-28, 2020 in Ghana.

The AfCFTA has a vision is to establish a single market for goods and services across 54 countries, allow the free movement of business travelers and investments, and create a continental customs union to streamline trade - and attract long-term investment.

Africa’s readiness for AfCFTA
Ms Tembo noted that the highest political level has given the signal for Africa to do this and so Africa has no option.

“Africa cannot wait for a time when it is ready. What is important is that we have that commitment to move forward while taking a step by step approach which progressively takes us to that direction that we want to be,” she said.

She said Africa should embrace the opportunity and find its space to ensure that it takes full advantage of what it can do internally as a continent and beyond.

“We should look at how we can add value to our processes internally to ensure that we get to a position where we can reduce our reliance on commodities whose prices continue to be volatile and unpredictable, and have for so many years not created the employment we desire to see,” she stated.

Therefore, she said, any step that will take the region in a direction where value addition will produce a better price and get it into the global value chain was laudable.  

Why WTPO confab in Ghana?
The GEPA in 2018 won the bid to host the WTPO conference in partnership with the ITC.  The two-day event will address the current trade environment and the uncertainties that might arise, along with outlining what it will take for organisations to adapt and thrive in this context.

Ms Tembo’s visit was therefore to interact with GEPA to assess its activities to promote the WTO.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GEPA, Dr Afua Asabea Asare, said about 250 representatives from all trade promotion organisations worldwide were expected at the WTPO conference.

However, she said that because of the Coronavirus, the GEPA and the committee of stakeholders had given itself up to the middle of April to make a firm decision on whether it should go ahead and hold it in May or postpone it.

“There is definitely going to be an impact on trade although I cannot tell immediately how it is going to be. It will be something that we will be talking about at the conference,” she said.