Julius K. Satsi, GNA
Accra, June 12, GNA - There is the need to involve all stakeholders in the discussions on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to ensure the readiness of the actors to meet demands, a multi-stakeholder consultation has indicated.
The Multi-stakeholder consultation, organised by Third World Network (TWN) – Africa, has said there was the need for inputs from stakeholders to be collated for proper scrutiny in ensuring inputs from all parties likely to be affected by the agreement.
The dialogue, which started on Tuesday and expected to end on Thursday, is being attended by representatives of Ministries of Trade from various African countries, Civil Societies and Donor Partners in Accra.
Dr Yao Graham, Co-ordinator of the Third World Network-Africa, said in an interview with the Ghana News Agency that the agreement, which was adopted on March 21 in Kigale, Rwanda by African leaders sought to liberalise trade in the continent and it was laudable because it supports Africa integration agenda.
He, however, said much had not been done to make the processes of the agreement democratic enough, adding that, “National level stakeholder consultation has been basically absent, business associations are absent, civil society group are absent, farmers are no near it”.
He said there was the need to discuss the implications of the terms of the AfCFTA and also evaluate the processes through which it had been brought this far and how going forward, the terms could be improved.
He indicated that trade liberalisation alone did not bring development confirmed by trade liberalisation experience on the African continent over the past 30 years and also discussions of the World Trade Organisation agreement as well as the Economic Partnership agreement.
“Even as we support Africa integration, how we approach the trade dimension of that integration should avoid the mistakes of how trade liberalisation has been done in other contexts,” Dr Graham said.
He indicated trade liberalisation should be consciously developmental and go in tandem with the trade integration agenda with other steps which would strengthen the productive capacity of the continent.
He noted that the substance of the AfCFTA seems to be rushing on trade liberalisation, saying, “If we don’t take steps to increase our productive capacities, what we will be doing is integrating African markets for the benefits of foreign goods and services”.
On her part, Mrs Treasure Maphanga, the Director of Trade and Industry at the Africa Union Commission said 44 countries signed the AfCFTA, which she described as the biggest free trade area in the world.
She noted that as of June 10, four countries – Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Niger had ratified the agreement, which leaves only 18 countries’ ratification to enable it enter into force probably by early next year.
Mrs Maphanga said the efforts on AfCFTA would have paid off only if citizens of Africa benefit from the agreement through economic transformation, job creation, improved living standard, sustainability and dignity.
She said trade negotiations alone did not have the potential to bring about all the continent wanted, adding that, “Consultation, collaboration and sensitisation of all societal groups at all levels, is key to make it a success”.