Participants of the final edition of the Virtual Business Forum under this year’s Citi Business Festival have called for a coordinated effort aimed at bringing local businesses together to produce on a large scale, to take advantage of trade opportunities from the COVID-19 pandemic and the impending implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area ( AfCFTA).
The AfCFTA provides an opportunity for Africa to create the world’s largest free trade area, with the potential to unite 1.3 billion people, in a $2.5 trillion dollar economic bloc and usher in a new era of development.
Speaking at the forum on Citi TV, David Ofosu-Dorte, Senior Partner of AB&David and member of Afrochampions, emphasized the need for government and the private sector to move on from planning and preparation to actually implementing all the plans that will enable Ghanaian businesses to thrive post-COVID and also after the AfCFTA finally commences.
“We are known to plan very well, but fail when it comes to implementation. We are also known to prepare very well, but are unable to leverage the advantages available to us. What I want to see is for the key stakeholders including government to effectively galvanize the various businesses, small or big, to take advantage of the opportunities on the continent and beyond in the shortest possible time”
On his part, Yofi Grant, the CEO of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, GIPC, said a reversal of Africa’s import dependence is required to take full advantage of opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When you look at Africa we are importing more than we are exporting. That definitely needs to be reversed totally. We need to start exporting processed goods to other African countries and to other parts of the world, and rather import the raw materials needed for production of value added produce.”
On the subject of the readiness of financial institutions to support local businesses to take advantage of the AFCFTA, the Regional Corporate Director of Absa Bank in West Africa, Ellen Ohene-Afoakwa, said banks were ready to support Small and Medium Scale Enterprises to succeed.
“The issue really is not about capital because the capital is there and banks are ready to support. The real issue is for businesses and governments on the continent to be clear on what they really want to focus on and produce for their markets. I must say that banks are currently providing support for all the infrastructure projects on the continent. As African economies we have strengths that I think we need to leverage on to industrialize, and banks like Absa are ready to support.”
The Co-founder and Managing Partner at International Consultancy, Konfidants, Michael Kottoh, highlighted the need for all stakeholders to prioritize scaling up the production ability of African businesses through partnerships among others, to ensure that companies from countries like China and India, do not become lead producers of goods under the AfCFTA thereby becoming the ultimate beneficiaries.