Trade and Industry Minister Alan Kyeremateng on Thursday rallied support for Ghana's confirmed hosting of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA), describing it as a major step in the nation's march towards economic prosperity.
"Mr Speaker, the hosting of the AfCTA Secretariat is going to be a game changer and launching pad for the Ghanaian Private Sector to explore and exploit business opportunities in Africa," the Minister told Parliament.
In a statement on the floor of the House, in Accra, Mr Kyeremateng said there could not have been a better time than now for Ghana to be hosting the AfCTA Secretariat, particularly at a time when both Ghana and Africa are rising.
The AfCTA is a Single Market (Duty-free Quota free) trading bloc covering the entire African Continent with a total population of 1.3 billion and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of almost US$3trillion.
Described as the most significant development in Africa since the establishment of the African Union (AU) (in 1963), it is the world's largest Free Trade Area, second only to the World Trade Organisation in terms of Member States.
The initial decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area was first taken at a Trade Ministerial Meeting held in Ghana and chaired by Ghana in September 2011.
Late President John Evans Atta Mills formally tabled the motion for the establishment of the AfCTA at the 18th Annual Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the AU in January 2012, at which the decision to establish the AfCTA was officially endorsed.
Ghana played a central role in the actual negotiations of the AfCTA between 2015 and 2018, contributions to the debates at the AfCTA Negotiation Forum. Ghana was also one of the first countries to sign the AfCTA Agreement and also the first country to ratify the Agreement, under President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
It was also the first country to offer to host the AfCTA Secretariat, after the formal signing of the Agreement at the AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, in March 2018. Ghana was selected among six other countries which submitted bids to host the Secretariat, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Egypt, E- Swatini and Madagascar.
In the final stages Senegal, Ethiopia and Egypt withdrew their bids in favour of Ghana.
Mr Kyeremateng noted that in spite of Ghana's pioneering role in the struggle for independence in Africa and subsequent contributions to the integration of the African continent, it has not had the honour and privilege of hosting any AU Organ.
"The decision for Ghana to host the AfCTA Secretariat is therefore a historic one," the Minister said, adding that the nation could leverage the opportunity to become the new commercial capital of Africa.
Also, the hosting of the AfCTA Headquarters in Ghana will attract major international financial institutions to locate in Ghana, in addition to other international companies doing business in Africa likely to consider Ghana as the preferred location for siting their corporate headquarters.
There would be other benefits as the AfCTA enhancing Government's current industrial development agenda and contribute to the diversification of the Ghanaian economy; recruitment of many Ghanaian professionals and administrative staff, and opening up of new market opportunities under preferential terms for Ghana producers, as well as Ghana having the opportunity of hosting various regional and continental meeting and other events associated with the AfCTA.
Ghana has already started implementing a Comprehensive Agenda for Industrial Transformation, with some of the interventions being pursued by the Government of Ghana, in line of the Programme of Action to boost intra African Trade.
It is also enhancing industrial productive capacity, facilitating trade, developing trade related infrastructure, enhancing access to finance, trade information and trade policy.
Ghana is also engaging in developing institutional support structure, through the constitution of an Inter-Ministerial Facilitation Committee by President Akufo-Addo, a National AfCTA Coordinating Office is being established, National AfCTA/BIAT Steering Committee formed and the establishment of Technical Working Groups, as well as the establishment of an Independent Monitoring and Evaluation Group to track performance based on key indicators.
The Trade and Industry Minister said sensitization workshops and seminars are being organised to provide information on the implementation of the AfCTA.
Currently, 54 out of 55 countries of Africa have so far signed the AfCTA, with 27 countries having ratified the Agreement. The requirement for bringing the Agreement into force was for 22 countries to ratify the Agreement.
In this regard, the on the 30th of May 2019 , the AfCTA entered into Force one month after 22 countries deposited their Instruments of Ratification with the AU Commission.