Exploring strategies to deepen private sector participation in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area took the centre stage at a panel session during the ‘2021 WTO Aid-for-Trade Stocktaking’ meeting.
The Aid-for-Trade initiative is set out to promote the role of trade in development and support building productive capacities.
Organised recently by the African Development Bank, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation and International Trade Centre, the meeting drew participants from across the African continent, the AfDB stated on Saturday.
It quoted the ITC Executive Director, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, as saying, “The success of AfCFTA hinges on the ability of African firms to understand and capitalise on the trade-related opportunities offered by AfCFTA.”
According to Coke-Hamilton, the initiative focuses on three priorities to boost the private sector’s role in AfCFTA. These include empowering businesses with skills and know-how, fostering multi-stakeholder partnerships to attract investment for greater value addition, and enhancing market connections using e-commerce and digital platforms.
“This is a trade area of the people, so we need to understand and engage the people to go forward and believe in this dream of an African free trade area,” the Coordinator of the African Group at the World Trade Organisation, Usha Dwarka-Canabady, was quoted to have said.
The Ghanaian Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen, the statement said, proposed that bridging information gaps between governments and the private sector would help build confidence around the free trade agreement and noted that fiscal incentives, including subsidies, might be needed in some instances.
The Director-General of UNIDO, Mr Li Yong, it said, emphasised the private sector’s role in speeding up industrial development and economic diversification, particularly in the context of the ongoing pandemic, and other development challenges.
“The private sector accounts for 80 per cent of total production, two-thirds of investment, three-quarters of credit and employs 90 per cent of the working age population,” Yong said.
He added that “several determining factors, including an enabling business environment, affordable connectivity, accelerated digitalisation and opportunities to forge strong public-private partnerships” were crucial to ensuring business commitment to trade and invest in the AfCFTA.
The AfDB is actively supporting or looking to support initiatives to boost trade and improve livelihoods for Africans, said the Vice President, Industry, Infrastructure, Private Sector and Trade, Solomon Quaynor.
He cited the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange as a model to be replicated across Africa, referring to the commodities exchange established in 2008 that is transforming the country’s agricultural trade.
“African farmers receive only 20 to 25 per cent of the final price of their market produce, compared to the 70 to 85 per cent that Asian farmers receive,” Quaynor added.
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