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By Alexander Nyarko Yeboah
Gitficonline–The Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) says Ghana should be fully prepared for the Africa continental free trade agreementif the nation is to benefit substantially from the agreement.
Mr. Tsonam Cleanse Akpeloo informs that, “Come January one, the whole of Africa would begin to operationalize the continental free trade area program. What it means is that about 90% of all imports and dutiable products within the continent of Africa would be liberalized. There will be winners and people who will gain; where do Ghana lie? It is only those who are ready who would benefit.”
Mr. Akpeloo made this call on Monday during the launch of the fourth Ghana International Trade and Finance Conference (GITFIC) on the Africa free trade concept at the Naa Deide Omadro Conference Hall, Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) premises.
In wondering how Ghana was going to handle the fall out from the free trade agreement, Mr. Akpeloo retorted, “Is Ghana ready to take advantage of the continental free trade. If we are not careful, we would wake up one day and the entire Ghanaian market would be flooded with cheap products. Are we going to be out of business; are we going to be competitive?”
The AGI Accra chairman said these were some of the questions Ghanaians shouldthink about as they celebrated the importance of the free trade agreement.
Mr. Akpeloo informed that the government of Ghana had done well in pushing for the siting of the headquarters of theAfrica Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA)Secretariat to Ghana, “but beyond the head office, the reality is whether our companies are ready to take advanatege of the continental free trade project?”
Mr. Akpeloo said Ghanaians should take a clue from the effects of Covid-19 on industries. “What happened was that the whole Ghanaian industrial space was exposed by an emergency they were not prepared for. We had a situation in which key essential products were out of stock simply because we did not have the capacity to produce to meet the demands.”
In that regard, he informed that there was the need to invest in the development of infrastructure. “We need to be able to improve on infrastructure and technology to maximize e-commerce as the whole world is beginning to sell online,” the AGI official informed.
Mr. Akpeloo observed that some of the key challenges affecting industry had to be resolved in order to achieve the AfCFTA project, explaining that factors of production were things to consider.
“You will realize that access to capital is still a big deal for industires. It is also impossible for local industry to access credit. Even in situations in which there are credit, access becomes difficult. By the time we finish dealing with the bank, three months have passed and you still haven’t got any money. Even in the event that you are able to go for money, the cost is so high, Mr. Akpeloo observed.”
He informed that the regulatory environment was key to the implementation of the AFCFTA agreement, insisting that, “…some of our local laws have been conflicting with international trade laws. It really has to be resolved. All the laws must be reconciled in order to be sure that we can take advantage of the continental free trade agreement. “
Mr. Akpeloo indicated that the cost of power remained a crucial part in the whole ptocess, observing that if a country’s cost of power was high, that countrywas not competitive since a high percentage of cost of production went into power.
He then asked the Ghana government to take steps to reduce the cost of power if Ghana was to compete favorably in the Africa industrial space.
That notwithstanding, Mr. Akpeloo said, “Ghana still have some competitive advantage in some of the areas suchas salt production. Ghana and Senegal are the only countries in Africa that have the competitive ability to produce salt at a cheaper cost and of a high quality. And so this is the time we have to quickly take advantage of salt production.
“Our pharmaceuticals are also highly rated on the continent of Africa and it is important to begin to invest greatly in that space. Our garment sector is very active, our products are highly preferred across the globe. The challenge however is that our people produce on a small scale and so we are asking that there ought to be significant investment in expanding these sectors of the economy.”
Mr. Akpeloo said agriculture had a lot to offer Ghana insisting that it was time Ghana cut down on importation of food and empower local farmers to expand production of certain highly demanded food stuff like rice, tomatoes, etc.