Ghana, under the auspices of its Ministry of Trade and Industry, will from today, start hosting a series of meeting for African Trade Ministers and Senior Trade Officials to advance the cause of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The 17th Meeting of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Negotiating Forum will begin the 7-day meetings to be held at the Accra International Conference Centre.
An official statement, issued by the Public Relations Office of the Ministry of Trade, and copied to the Ghana News Agency last Saturday, said the three-day meeting would be followed by the 10th meeting of the Committee of Senior Trade Officials which comes off from December 12 to 13, 2019.
The African Ministers of Trade Meeting and the AfCFTA Council of Ministers Meeting will follow from December 14 to 15, 2019.
“The 17th African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Negotiating Forum will seek to finalise outstanding works on phase one negotiations which deals with the trade in goods and services protocols as well as dispute settlement mechanisms,” the statement explained.
“Technical Working Groups on investments, competition policy and intellectual property rights will also be established”.
It said the report of the Negotiating Forum will form the agenda for the meeting of the Senior Trade Officials from the December 12 and 13.
“At the Council of Ministers Meeting, attention will be paid to the consideration of the report of the meeting of the Senior Trade Officials as well as consideration of work plans and budgets of the interim AfCFTA Secretariat and the permanent Secretariat.
“These meetings are of particular relevance to the country considering the fact that Ghana is the host of the AfCFTA Secretariat”.
The AfCFTA is a Single Market (Duty-free, Quota-free) covering the entire African Continent with a total population of 1.2 billion and a combined GDP of almost $3 trillion.
“The AfCFTA is the single most significant development in Africa since the establishment of Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963,” the statement underlined.
“It is considered as the flagship project under the AU Agenda 2063. It is the world’s largest Free Trade Area, second only to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in terms of the number of member states”.
The AfCFTA seeks to increase intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade within the African continent. It is estimated that intra-African trade will increase by as much as $35 billion per annum or 52 per cent by 2022.
The Free Trade Area also aims at addressing the challenge of small fragmented markets in Africa by creating a single continental market which will lead to economies of scale; add value to Africa’s abundant natural resources and promote economic diversification and industrialisation.
It is also envisaged to develop regional value chains and facilitate cross border investments; enhance access to an expanded market for SMEs in Africa on preferential trade terms; attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into Africa with strong regional and local content; facilitate the integration of Africa economies into global markets and thereby significantly improve the Terms of Trade for African countries; among others.
“The AfCFTA is operational, with Ghana as the host country, at a time when Ghana is implementing a comprehensive industrial transformation plan to diversify the production base of the economy to take advantage of the enormous market access opportunities available under preferential terms for Ghanaian and other producers in Africa,” said the statement.
Institutional coordination, support framework
“In addition to focusing on harnessing the benefits of the AfCFTA, the government has set up an institutional coordination and support framework, which includes an Inter-Ministerial Facilitation Committee, a National Steering Committee and Seven Technical Working Groups to implement a Programme of Action to Boost Intra-African Trade, all to be supported by a National Coordination Office for AfCFTA.
“It is instructive to note that despite Ghana’s pioneering role in the struggle for independence in Africa and subsequent contributions to the integration of the African continent, Ghana has not had the honour and privilege of hosting any AU Organ.
“Although it has been long in coming, it has come at a time when Africa is rising and Ghana is rising. Full implementation of the Free Trade Area, in the knowledge and wisdom of the African Union and its leadership, is scheduled to commence on July 1, 2020 to, rightfully so, coincide with the day Ghana attained a Republican Status”.