President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has urged African leaders to hasten the coming into being of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), to spur industrial development, spread prosperity, reduce poverty and make Africa an economic powerhouse.
“If we remain resolute and see to its realisation, we will obtain a major boost to the development of our economies, and a considerable reduction on our dependence on foreign goods and services.
“It is the path to collective self-reliance and prosperity,” he stated when speaking at a State Banquet held in his honour by Zambian President Edger Lungu in Lusaka on Tuesday.
President Akufo-Addo is on a three- day official State Visit to that country.
Heads of State and Governments who attended the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, in January this year, signed up to the implementation of the CFTA.
The purpose of the free-trade area is to ensure significant growth of Intra-Africa trade, as well as assisting countries on the continent use trade more effectively as an engine of growth and for sustainable development.
The CFTA would also reduce the vulnerability of the continent to external shocks, and will also enhance the participation of Africa in global trade as a respectable partner, thereby reducing the continent’s dependence on foreign aid and external borrowing.
President Akufo-Addo noted that for a continent that had made the choice of pursuing integration, Africa had not done much in liberalising and promoting trade amongst member countries.
“Research has shown that countries or groups of countries with the largest share of world trade are located within regions with the highest share of intra-regional trade. Trade between African nations remains low compared to other parts of the world,” he lamented.
In 2000, intra-continental trade accounted for 10 per cent of Africa’s total trade, and increased marginally to 11 per cent in 2015.
Trading amongst members of the European Union, for example, amounted to 70 per cent in 2015. Intra-African trade is still estimated at less than two per cent of global trade.
“With these very low levels of trade and investment co-operation in Africa, we must put in place deliberate measures aimed at expanding trade and business collaborations to improve the prospects for prosperity of our peoples,” President Akufo-Addo added.
The President expressed confidence that when the CTFA comes into effect, it would bring progress and prosperity to the African peoples.
He said with Africa’s population of 1.2 billion set to expand to two billion in 20 years, “this means that a genuine continental market in Africa should be in our economic interest, for it will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to the peoples in our continent with hard work, creativity and enterprise”.
President Akufo-Addo said: “We should no longer delay the process of African integration. A functioning, common continental market has to be a very fundamental objective of all the peoples and governments on the continent, an objective that will consolidate the process of structural transformation of our national economies on which we must be engaged.”
He called for the intensification of the links between Ghanaian and Zambian enterprises.
He explained that with Zambia and Ghana recording similar GDP growth rates in 2016- 3.3% per cent (Ghana) and 3.6 per cent (Zambia), as a result of high fiscal deficits, low investor confidence, falling commodity prices and low agricultural productivity, it was imperative for the two countries to move away from being mere producers and exporters of raw materials.
“There can be no future prosperity for our peoples in the short, medium or long term, if we continue to maintain economic structures dependent on the production and export of raw materials. Unless we industrialise, with the goal of adding significant value to our primary products, we cannot create the necessary numbers of good-paying jobs that will enhance the living standards of the masses of our country,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo outlined a number of policies he had initiated since assuming office in January 2017, which had shifted the focus of Ghana’s economy from taxation to production.
He also applauded his Zambian counterpart for his recently approved National Development Plan, on the theme: “Accelerating development efforts towards vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind.”
The Zambian programme is hinged on the pillars of economic diversification and job creation, reduced poverty and vulnerability, reduced developmental inequalities, enhancing human development, and conducive governance environment for economic diversification, to create a diversified economy for sustained growth and economic development is highly commendable.
“The transformation of our two economies we seek through these measures should make our enterprises and businesses very competitive in Africa, and beyond,” he added.