The fourth edition of the Ghana International Trade and Finance Conference (GITFIC) to be held in April is expected to help participants actualize the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Professor Godfred A. Bopkin, a member of GITFIC steering committee, and a professor of Finance, University of Ghana, said it was about time Africans actualized the theoretical hypothetical benefits of the AfCFTA.
Prof Bopkin, who also the Dean of Students Affairs, University of Ghana, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the expectation of the conference, said the theorists had indicated that the hypothetical benefits of the AfCFTA included intra-regional trade, productivity efficiency, value addition, and job creation among others.
"This conference takes the step further into actualizing this hypothetic benefit because the bulk of the talk of the AfCFTA is more at the higher level, but if you look at the plan of the conference, it touched on the relevant stakeholders that tells you that beyond the hype and all that it's time to get to work, "he stated.
He added that it was time that the relevant stakeholders came to terms with where Africa was going and how they could strategize to gain its full benefits adding that he believed that the European union, UK, France and other world powers would be working towards how they could plug in to draw the benefits of the AfCFTA therefore the need for Africans to make the best out of it.
Prof. Bopkin, who will lead a panel discussion at the conference, said for AfCFT to work for Africans, it must be owned by the people and must be opened up to the various stakeholders such as the private sector participants, and the ports ndicating that logistics were very important for trade to be effective and efficient.
He added that, "Infrastructure is very important not only in terms of hard infrastructure or physical stock but we are also talking about soft infrastructure; we are talking about digital infrastructure, digital connectivity and physical connectivity".
He observed that Africa as a whole had a very low savings level and therefore there was the need to use the conference to highlight the continent's high investment potential to the world in order to attract foreign direct investment to skill up its infrastructural connectivity.
According to him, a lot of investment was needed to link mainland and landlocked African countries adding that for trade to flow efficiently among the countries, it was important that African central banks worked together and had a common agenda.
He said the conference would look at the level of collaboration needed among African central banks, and regional development banks especially the African Development Bank in terms of pulling resources to deliver common infrastructure that has to be paid for.
He explained that because African governments did not have the physical space to deliver on the necessary critical infrastructure, "African Development Bank becomes very pivotal and then the extent to which they can collaborate to regional development banks, for instance we have the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, Southern Development Bank, all these must come together because they may have a bankable balance sheet that can attract foreign direct investment at a lower rate than if African countries were going to do so and they will be able to deliver commercially viable projects that can pay for themselves".
Mr Selasi Koffi Ackom, Chief Executive Officer, Rescue Shipping & GITFIC, said they were expecting delegates from all over the continent adding that so far the conference app was buzzing with registered delegates both from Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East and America.
Mr Ackom businesses and business executives needed to fully understand what the continental free trade area in order to harness its full benefits.
The theme for GITFIC 2020 is: "Optimizing AfCFTA for Africans; strategic role of logistics infrastructure".