President Akufo-Addo has urged Africans to collaborate to make the African Continental Free Trade Area initiative work.
According to the President, there is a huge opportunity for growth if all 54 countries with a total population of 1.3 billion people and a GDP of $3 trillion collaborate
The president’s call was based on his observation that Africa’s intra-trade is one of the lowest in the region and remains fragmented with low production capacities.
“There is strength in unity.” If all the 54 countries with 1.3 billion people, the majority of whom are young, and a $3 trillion GDP collaborate, this is a huge opportunity for growth and a way to deal with price hikes and global uncertainties,” he noted.
He was speaking at the 7th African Leadership Forum in collaboration with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat in Accra last Friday. The event was on the theme “Promoting intra-Africa trade to unlock agricultural potential in Africa”.
The two-day event highlights Africa’s agricultural potentials and opportunities emerging from climate change, shares experiences and lessons on the obstacles (internal and international) in maximising agricultural potential in Africa.
It was also used to discuss the potential and obstacles to agriculture as well as practical and realistic requirements for implementing the AfCFTA within Africa’s agriculture context, and identifies priorities and a roadmap for implementation of the agricultural trade perspective under the AfCFTA in order to realise its transformative economic objective.
Tanzania’s former President, Jakaya Kikwete, who also attended the programme, called for investments to be made in agricultural sector since the sector accounts for a large share of GDP and foreign exchange earnings for the continent and thus gives a unique opportunity for the highly needed intra-Africa trade.
“There is no sector that employs so many people as agriculture does, but it has not reached its potential, so discussing how to unlock potential is the right thing to do. More needs to be done in African countries and linked to how to undo poverty and remove food shortages and hunger. This is a great opportunity for inclusivity in the intra-trade chain,” he said.
The Convener and ALF Patron, Dr. Kikwete, urged that Africa should focus more of its innovations in the agricultural sector since agriculture is the mainstay of the majority of the people in sub-Saharan Africa and the backbone of their economies.
He said this important sector has not been able to perform optimally because of the many constraints impeding full exploitation of its potential.
He acknowledged that there are efforts being made by African governments for smallholder farmers and other stakeholders to transform agriculture, with significant ground already covered however, much more needs to be done to make agriculture play its rightful role in the growth and development of African nations.
“Let us make investment in our people, especially smallholder farmers and our young people; investment in our organisations and institutions to ensure the favourable environment of doing business prevails; and above all, our sacrifice to invest in the long-term African agenda over the short-term domestic priorities.”
The AfCFTA Secretariat Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene, also noted that Africa remains a net food importer, with the food import bill put at $80 billion in the years 2015–2017, a phenomena he tagged as not encouraging and hence called for a change.
“We need to unlock the potential of our rural communities in order to be part of the global value chain and enable smallholder farmers to be part of global trade. In recognition of the role of the private sector and businesses owned by women, AFCTA has prioritised agriculture and processing,” he said.