Panellists at the 4th edition of the Citi Business Festival virtual forum have offered varied opinions on how Ghanaian businesses, particularly Small and Medium-sized enterprises, can take advantage of the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Small and Medium Enterprises in Ghana and other parts of Africa are struggling to expand and compete due to several barriers such as limited skilled labour, poor access to financing, trade barriers, complex bureaucratic procedures, and corruption among others.
The AfCFTA, which is primarily aimed at improving intra- African trade, seeks to address the aforementioned challenges by creating an enabling environment for businesses on the continent to flourish.
Panellists thus sought to offer useful ideas on how Ghanaian businesses can leverage the numerous opportunities presented by AfCFTA.
The forum, which was hosted by Citi News’ Vivian Kai Lokko was under the theme ‘Preparing and positioning for the AfCFTA opportunity‘ and was live on Citi TV and on Facebook.
Panellists billed for this forum were Michael Kottoh – Managing Partner of Konfidantes, Kobla Nyaletey – Director of Markets for Absa Bank Ghana and Nigeria, and Fatima AliMohammed – Chairperson, Agribusiness sector of AGI and CEO of Africa Band Warrior.
Mark Badu Aboagye – Chief Executive of GNCCI and Sam Dentu – Deputy CEO of GEPA, joined the discussion via the Zoom platform.
Building a national brand
Chairperson of the Agribusiness sector at the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Fatima Ali Mohammed, kicked off the discussion by highlighting the need for Ghana to have a “national branding’ strategy in order to fully reap the benefits of the AfCFTA.
She pointed out that building a national brand will better position Ghanaian businesses in the area of trade and export, adding that this can be done through advocacy and the projection of positive narratives.
“Obviously, we have seen what has happened with the EU and Brexit. Coming from the perspective of being a brand builder, I think we are fully responsible for where we are because we do not tell the story in the right way, so we tend to paint a very dark picture of the continent and because of what we are going through on the continent as well from the political disarray and the poverty levels, there seems to be no hope, but I would want people to change their perspective because the reality is here.”
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce (GNCCI), Mark Badu Aboagye, who joined the discussion via zoom, called for enhanced collaboration between Small and Medium Enterprises and other stakeholders in order for the country to enjoy the full benefits of AfCFTA.
“There should be a strategic and concerted effort to develop the businesses in Ghana to be able to take part or benefit from AfCFTA. We do not have to do things as business as usual; otherwise, we will not benefit.”
According to him, the opportunity for SMEs in the country to participate in the AfCFTA initiative should be seen as a rare opportunity to reach the international market with their goods and services.
“The greatest excitement for me is that our SMEs can participate in international trade because SMEs on their own are too small, and it is extremely difficult to participate in international trade. Their scale is low, they don’t have the capacity, they don’t have information on the trading platforms, but with the AfCFTA, SMEs can participate by being part of a value chain.”
Banks must support MSMEs
Managing Partner for Konfidantes, Michael Kottoh, also advised banks to begin profiling Ghanaian businesses and offer the required financial support for them to build their capacities for the AfCFTA.
“The Banking industry needs to also look at AfCFTA as an opportunity because the way the conversation goes currently is that it is an opportunity for industry, and they need to convince banks and the financial sector players to provide financing.”
“This is just one way of looking at the opportunity. For banks, AfCFTA is probably the single biggest opportunity the financial sector will have, so it is absolutely crucial that the banks and financial services industry in Africa take the lead.”
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer of (GEPA), Sam Dentu, who also joined the conversation via Zoom, expressed his outfit’s readiness to provide information and technical assistance to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) interested in intra-Africa trade.
“GEPA is the national trade organisation, and we have tried in the last couple of years to tell the world, especially the exportable and potential SMEs, what we do. Last month we launched what we call GEPA Impact hub which is full of trade information, technical advice, and everything that you will need to upscale your business and be able to export.”
He further stated that following the implementation of AfCFTA, his outfit had introduced a project named ‘Export Trade Houses’.
The Export Trade Houses basically aggregate products, through private businesses and enterprises, from Ghana and export them.
Diversification of funding sources
The Director of Markets at Absa Ghana and Nigeria, Kobla Nyaletey, also advised Ghanaian businesses to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to escape the high-interest rate regime in the country.
Mr. Nyaletey explained that “by trading on the international market, you generate foreign currency. You are thus not restricted to local sources of funding.”
He further stressed the need for key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Ghana to be part of the AfCFTA conversation.
“Fundamentally, we need to ensure that we focus on our macro-situation as an important ingredient in enabling our businesses to be competitive in the AfCFTA discussions.”
“I believe that all the key stakeholders in this arena, the Ministry of Finance, Bank of Ghana, can also be part of the conversation. Their roles should be clearly spelled out, all in the bid to enable Ghanaian businesses to succeed.”
The Citi Business Festival is an extensive program of business events and on-air activities providing inspiration, business ideas, and information to persons who are starting, building, or growing their businesses.
The virtual business fora are live on Citi TV every Tuesday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.
The radio on-air series is themed to correspond with the various virtual forums at 9:20 am every weekday.
The Citi Business Festival is sponsored by Absa Bank Ghana with support from IT Consortium and the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC).
It is also powered by Citi FM, Citi TV, and Ghana’s most comprehensive business news website, www.citibusinessnews.com.