The immediate-past Minister of Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has urged Ghana and Zimbabwe to, as a matter of urgency, scale up trade with each other under the framework of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), considering the economic distress they currently experience.
According to him, the impact of the global economic recession on the two countries lent credence to calls for Accra and Harare to find solutions to their own problems.
One such solution, he noted, was to increase trade volumes with each other, since there existed many opportunities that could be explored to achieve that feat.
“This event could not be more timely, occurring at a period when the whole world finds itself in a state of economic distress.
It presents an opportunity for us to find lasting solutions to our challenges. If you look at the share of intra-African exports as a percentage of total African exports, it tells us that internal trade on the continent is a must,” he noted.
Speaking as the guest of honour at the Zimbabwe-Ghana Business Forum which opened in Accra last Monday and is expected to end today, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, who is also a flag-bearer hopeful of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), further noted that the volume of trade among countries on the African continent was too small, compared to the total global trade.
Statistics from the AfCFTA show that trade between Ghana and Zimbabwe stood at just a little over $3 million in 2022.
Worried about that development, he called for Africa to increase trade among its countries using the framework of the AfCFTA, which was the panacea to resolving some of the challenges faced when trading within the African continent.
He said it was a well-known fact that intra-Africa trade was one of the dreams of the founding fathers of the African Union, a dream which never fully came into fruition in their time.
“It might have taken us decades to get there, but at least progress has been made”, he added.
Dr Afriyie Akoto, who is also a former Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwadaso in the Ashanti Region, was of the strong conviction that lack of initiative and mere rhetoric had been the bane of many African countries, expressing the belief that with the establishment of the AfCFTA, those challenges could be a thing of the past.
He said there existed significant potential for the two countries could explore to increase the volume of trade among themselves and urged participants at the forum to take very seriously discussions centred on business-to-business (B2B).
The Zimbabwean Ambassador to Ghana, Dr Kufa Edward Chinoza, in his opening remarks expressed the hope that, with initiatives such as the AfCFTA, trade agreement and business linkages through such fora, there would be a change in the current situation.
He urged ZimTrade and the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) to work hand-in-hand and provide the business communities of the two countries with real time data and market intelligence to assist them make informed decisions if they wanted to diversity and explore new markets.
“These initiatives can, indeed, lead to increased trade between our two countries”, said Ambassador Chinoza.
He said intra-Africa trade remained at low levels, averaging below 18 per cent, insisting that there was the need to scale it up, assuring that they, as policymakers, were ever ready to assist in whatever way to increase trade within the continent.
Also speaking at the forum was the AfCFTA Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene.
He told the gathering that trade between Ghana and Zimbabwe was critical for two main reasons; that Zimbabwe was the fifth largest producer of globally sought-after lithium and a significant grain producer on the continent.
Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire combined are the largest producers of cocoa, producing more than 70 per cent of global production.
“Zimbabwe produces over $200 million worth of excess grain per year, thus the capacity to feed southern Africa and the rest of the continent is there.
This is critical in the face of food insecurity due to geopolitical tensions.
Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are the largest producers of cocoa.
As such AfCFTA presents an opportunity for you to trade on favourable and preferential terms.
Before AfCFTA, Zimbabwe and Ghana had to trade using the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
Exports from each other’s markets would be competing with exports from third-party countries in the markets in Ghana and in Zimbabwe”, he said.