The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has called on African countries to work together in the development of agriculture to drive intra-Africa trade for economic growth.
According to him, such a move would also further continental integration and support in redefining Africa’s development narrative.
He said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could be a key game changer in advancing Africa’s growth if countries commit to its principles.
President Akufo-Addo was speaking in Accra yesterday during the opening session of the 7th African Leadership Forum.
Organised by Uongozi Institute in partnership with the AfCFTA Secretariat, the event was on the theme “Promoting Intra-Africa trade to unlock agricultural potential in Africa.”
It was attended by high profile leaders from the continent including former presidents of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, former president of Tanzania and Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, former prime minister of Ethiopia.
President Akufo-Addo said the AfCFTA could lead to a US$35 billion increase in exports and reduce import by US$10 billion dollars, a situation that would propel reduction in poverty across the continent.
He noted that, the agreement would also help in diversifying economies across Africa and make them resilient to global shocks and happenings.
Also, the AfCFTA, according to the President, would enhance value addition on agricultural produce in Africa for more foreign exchange earnings and help deal with price hikes.
He explained that the relevance and benefits of the agreement required that African governments put in place coherent and strategic actions to boost exports and value addition.
President Akufo-Addo further urged for improved investments, especially in the area of agriculture to drive economic growth, trade diversification and improve intra-Africa trade.
He said that, currently, over reliance on raw commodities, low production capacity, existing intra-trade barriers, among others, have accounted for Africa’s three per cent involvement in global trade.
For that to change, he urged for continuous collaboration towards continental integration and enhanced trading activities between African countries adding that “We cannot allow our fate to be determined by shocks from external countries. It is time to define our own narrative.”
Secretary General of the AfCFTA, Mr Wamkele Mene, noted that food insecurity, COVID-19, geopolitical contest, rising cost of food, inflation and poverty have distorted Africa’s goal of ending hunger by 2025.
Presently, he said, about 10 million children in Africa face hunger while more than 800 million of the African population face food shortage.
However, agriculture and agro-processing, he explained, provides an avenue to achieve self sufficiency and unlock job opportunities.
This, Mr Mene said, reinforces the need to accelerate trade to make Africa a net exporter and accelerate the removal of barriers to intra-Africa trade to ensure the free flow of food materials.
“AfCFTA has prioritised agriculture as one of the main sectors.
“We have the capacity to feed ourselves and provide jobs through agriculture and processing and export to other parts of the world.
“AfCFTA is the right instrument we need to enable the free flow of goods and services,” he added.
On his part, Dr Kikwete tasked African leaders to increase investments in agriculture to enable the sector take its rightful role in Africa’s development.
As a mainstay of the continent’s economy, he said, the required investments would help in tapping agriculture’s potential to achieve development.