Businesses in the Ashanti Region are demanding that government creates enough safety nets to protect local businesses from the anticipated competition of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreements which takes off in January.

The multinational trade agreement will involve facilitation of movement of goods, services and logistics under relaxed border and payment protocols for 54 Afrocan countries.

The Businesses made these demands when the Ghana Export Promotion Authority held its first regional AfCTAA conference in the Ashanti regional capital Kumasi.

The Confab was to help businesses and exporters in the Ashanti region leverage the opportunities of the Free Trade Agreement to beef up Ghana’s export earnings.

The Ashanti Region has been marked by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority as a force of trade with its cocoa, timber and mineral resources as well as its substantial agriculture and manufacturing capacity.

Local producers are however demanding comprehensive support for businesses expected to face stiff competition from other countries enjoying relatively low lending rates and other incentives that give a competitive edge over Ghanaian businesses.

General Manager for one of Ghana’s foremost players in the local poultry industry, Darko Farms; Augustine Kuudar insisted that the country will only attain the benefits of AfCFTA if government commits to creating an export friendly business environment for local farmers.

“In the poultry industry, 70% of the cost is feed so if we are able to deal with that significantly it will make us competitive. The second is the cost of borrowing because if credit rates come down it will help farmers,” he suggested.

Logistics manager for Olam Cocoa Stella Owusu Ansah has had considerable trade experience on the African Continent. She pointed out that institutional frustration from regulatory bodies like the Standards Authority must be smoothened out, to give Ghanaian businesses the credibility they need to trade with ease when AfCTA commences.

Although we have our footprints in many of the African Countries already, it is still good to have the government take the lead through AfCTA because if you are meeting partners, you know government is a credible partner you are liaising with.

She explained, When you are talking about international trade, you need credibility because you are trading between governments. Local Businesses will need state agencies like the Standards Authority supporting. That government backing will give your products backing and leverage to make your brand esteemed.

As local businesses view the trade agreement with fear of stifling local businesses, Board Chair of GEPA Sandy Osei Agyemang advised local businesses in Ashanti to rather focus on improving the quality of their products to take advantage of the vast market that AfCTA presents.

He explained, “If you don’t understand the market. if you don’t focus on good quality and good packaging, someone from Egypt who does all of that, will come and take your business but competition brings the best in us and this is why we are here to tell local businessmen to up their game.”

Intra African Trade

Deputy minister of trade Robert Ahomka Lindsey expressed worry, Intra African trade constitutes a meagre 16% of all export trade from African countries with the majority of its exports ending up in Europe and America.

Out of this, Ghana’s exports of 1.4 billion enjoys only a 4 percent share even though the country has been growing its exports at an average of 10% annually.

“If you look at the wealthy countries in the EU over 55% of their trade is among EU countries. What that should tell you is that, we are fighting a battle to enter a market so far from yours when the most immediate opportunity we have right here in Africa remains ignored. The objective of this AfCFTA is to ensure we address this fundermental problem to build wealth within the 55 African countries,” Mr Ahomkah Linsey emphasized.

National Export Development Strategy

The Ghana Export Promotion Authority is looking to the private sector to build Ghana’s non traditional export revenues to some 25.3 billion dollars by the year 2029.

chief executive officer of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority Dr. Efua asabea Asare indicated that GEPA is linking its National Export Development Strategy with the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreements and the country’s overall industrialization infrastructure, to fast track this target.

She disclosed, “It is expected that each district in Ghana should develop at least one exportable product that will provide the needed raw materials to feed the expanding number of factories being established under GEPA’s suggested 1 district 1 product program.”

By: Source: Ghana/ Heathcote – Fumador