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Interview Dr Fareed Arthur “ A huge opportunity to access markets for made in Ghana goods and services”

As Ghana is one of the first countries on the continent to adopt a local adaptation strategy for the AfCFTA, Dr. Fareed Arthur, Head of the AfCFTA Coordination Unit, Trade and Industry Ministry of Ghana, outlines the main objectives.

What opportunities does the AfCFTA offer to Ghana? Is it about encouraging more ‘made in Ghana’ manufacturing? 

The AfCFTA seeks to create a common African Market with 1.2 billion people. This provides a huge opportunity for Ghana to access markets for made in Ghana goods and services. It also provides an opportunity for Ghanaian industries to take advantage of the economies of scale and to expand production. Participation in the AfCFTA will lead to increased employment for the youth and provides huge incentives for industrialization and economic diversification. In most African countries women play very significant roles in the economic development and the opportunities provided by access to a unified continental market will yield significant benefits for Ghanaian women in business. 

The AfCFTA entered into force last January. Ghana is one of the countries that have announced that they are putting in place a ‘blueprint’ to support local businesses in the new AfCFTA context. Why? 

The AfCFTA falls in line with government’s own blueprint for development which is named Ghana Beyond Aid that it has been pursuing since 2016. These includes programmes like the One District One Factory (1D1F) Initiative which is intended to support agro processing, industrialization and diversification of the economy. Other initiatives are the establishment of Industrial Parks across the country, or The Strategic Anchor Industries Programme which seeks to identify and promote key industries with strategic importance for driving industrial transformation. Creating the enabling environment for local business to harness the full benefits of the AfCFTA is therefore a logical extension of the National development Agenda.

“Competition is not necessarily a bad thing. In the short term, there may be some challenges but in the long run when the level playing field sets in, competition will lead to African consumers getting good quality and value for money goods and services”

The challenge also about attracting investors. Is the AfCFTA an opportunity to rethink Ghana’s partnerships and to reach out to new categories of investors, particularly coming from Africa? 

Naturally, the AfCFTA provides opportunities for cross border and intra continental synergies in several areas. In the energy sector, pharmaceuticals, finance and in the free movement of skills amongst member states. Ghana intends to leverage these opportunities to create a vibrant economy, and to encourage Ghanaian businesses to form partnerships to attract investment particularly from Africa. 

How is the Ghanaian private sector involved in this strategy? Beyond investments, do you see in the AFCFTA opportunities to support the Ghanaian private sector ? 

The private sector is the principal beneficiary of Ghana’s participation in the AfCFTA and there are several government programs targeted at the private sector. Additionally, Ghana is implementing a well thought out programme of sensitization and awareness creation. The agencies that are involved with trade like the Ghana Export Promotion Authority, the Ghana Standard Authority, the Ghana National Chamber Of Commerce and Industry, the National Board for Small Scale Industry are all actively engaged to ensure efficient private sector support in various forms including professional training and equipment upgrades. This is intended to make the Ghanaian businesses more competitive and also to attract investment. 

Some observers fear that the AfCFTA will only drive competition between African states. How can this be avoided and how can instead the AfCFTA create more economic synergies between African countries.

Competition is not necessarily a bad thing. In the short term, there may be some challenges but in the long run when the level playing field sets in, competition will lead to African consumers getting good quality and value for money goods and services. To forestall unfair competition the AfCFTA is currently negotiating a series of protocols including protocols on competition policy, Intellectual Property Rights and Investment. The protocol on Competition Policy seeks to regulate competition and safeguard the interests of participating countries. 

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