Dr Eric Osei-Assibey, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Ghana, has charged African leaders to as a matter of urgency find lasting solution to the continent’s unending geopolitical woes.
This, he explained, was crucial if the continent was to successfully implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and reap its full benefit.
So far, 54 out of the 55 African countries have signed on to the 1.3 billion single market trading Agreement, with 37 of them having deposited their instruments of ratification of the Agreement.
However, many of these countries continue to grapple with political instability.
Since August 2020, the West African sub-region alone has witnessed four attempts to undermine democracy, the latest of which happened on Sunday, September 4, 2021, which saw the ousting of Guinean President, Alpha Conde’ by the country’s Special Forces, resulting in the closure of its land and air borders.
Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra, over recent political unrest and its impact on the implementation of the AfCFTA, Dr Osei-Assibey said such conflicts would have a ripple effect on the Agreement as they posed major threats to free trade and dampen investor confidence.
“It is obviously a problem having this kind of geopolitical tension across borders because the uncertainties that it creates in the minds of investors and businesses is enormous. Obviously, nobody wants to do business in an environment that has heightened tension and risk and therefore it is definitely going to have a militating effect on our competitiveness, our ability to compete effectively with our peers across the continent and region,” he noted.
He criticised the upsurge in political upheavals, coup d’etats and takeovers despite an increased democratization in recent time, a situation he bemoaned had rendered regional free trade blocs ineffective in the past.
Dr Osei-Assibey, who is also the Dean of International Programmes at the University, urged continental and regional bodies including, the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to proffer stiffer punishment to such countries to serve as deterrent to other member states.
“This would ensure stability, enhance trading activities and boost investor confidence.
He said it was a problem, which one would have expected that given the increasing democratization in recent time, the sub-region was going to see a much more deepening in the consolidation of our democracy but from nowhere there was an upsurge in some of these political upheavals, coup d’etats, takeovers and all of which obviously took away the efforts that had been put in over the years.
“It doesn’t auger too well for the continent with this thing happening across the region,” he said.
He added that: “I think that African leaders, African Union and ECOWAS and all those continental bodies should come out strongly in their communication and impose immediate sanctions on some of these countries to serve as a deterrent, otherwise there is going to be a ripple effect”.
Dr Osei-Assibey added that AfCFTA was a game-changer for the continent and therefore, everything possible must be done including tackling all bottleneck to ensure its success to realise its full potential.
“There is a projection that if AfCFTA goes on well, Gross Domestic Product is going to increase from the current 3.5 trillion to about 6.5 trillion by the year 2030.
“So obviously the AfCFTA is a game-changer and that is really going to help us scaleup. I mean businesses are going to be able to scale across region, produce at much greater scale with more efficiency and productivity because, once you are producing at that large scale, your per unit cost is lowered significantly and you also have access to large market within the region,” he said.
Trading under AfCFTA commenced on January 1, 2021.