Regional Corporate Director for Africa at Absa Bank, Ellen Ohene-Afoakwa, has urged policymakers and the business community across the continent to implement policies that can boost industrialization if the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is to be successful.
According to her, African countries must prioritize, develop, and implement smarter local strategies to seize the rising opportunities in manufacturing and industrialization across the various sectors in order to increase the global competitiveness of the continent.
Africa’s contribution to global trade is currently around three percent although Africa has seventeen percent of the world’s population.
Ellen Ohene-Afoakwa, Regional Corporate Director for Africa at Absa Bank, who spoke on the Citi Business Festival Virtual Forum on the topic; ‘Understanding the AfCFTA and the opportunities for your business’, stated that Africa needs industrialization and structural change to succeed in free trade.
“For Africa to really succeed, we need to have the right steps in place. We need to look at how we can really focus on increasing our productivity and capacity. There is a huge potential for industrialization. From abundance in agriculture; it will interest you to know that 50 percent of the world’s arable land is found in Africa. We have a lot of mineral resources and we have a fast-growing population and market as well. This is a very important factor for industrialization. We can leverage our abundant natural and human resources to industrialize. So, what prevents us from really processing cocoa for instance instead of exporting it in its raw form?,” she said.
She also urged businesses in Africa to change their production and trade focus.
“We also need to take advantage of the market that AfCFTA provides. It is a huge market. This is a huge opportunity to add value so that we can export and make money. The total import bill for Africa is around 11.8 billion dollars, so if we able to produce locally, we can reduce all these and be self-sustainable. In Africa, we have a lot of resources so I believe we have to start our industrialization by leveraging on our strength. We have a lot of cotton for textiles and apparel so we can focus on textiles and apparel for exports,”she added.
The AfCFTA, which is expected to take off in July this year, seeks to among other things establish a single market for goods and services across 54 countries, allow the free movement of business travelers and investments, and create a continental customs union to streamline trade – and attract long-term investment.
The AfCFTA provides an opportunity for Africa to create the world’s largest free trade area, with the potential to unite 1.3 billion people, in a $2.5 trillion dollar economic bloc and usher in a new era of development.
The 2020 edition of the Citi Business Festival has a line-up of radio and TV discussions. It is featuring virtual business fora that would be live on Citi TV.
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