Last year, the global Covid-19 pandemic had an adverse impact on economies and businesses. The pandemic took toll on lives. Many businesses had to make significant adjustments to remain operational or become competitive. The global economy has not recovered enough from the shocks of the virus and now that a new variant of the virus has been found which is deemed more infectious than the current one, we must not abandon the Covid-19 protocols. The good news is that vaccines are expected to be widely available across the Ghana and the rest of continent in the course of the year. This is expected to lead us back into normalcy.
Nonetheless, there is one key lesson we must continue to hold on to as industry players. The pandemic was a tragedy whose emergence and impact were not anticipated. It destabilized the equilibrium of the world and did not leave out businesses. As we embrace a new year, it is imperative that we remodel our businesses to be agile to ensure quick and appropriate response to similar situations. While we hope for the best, we must prepare for the worst. Covid-19 has made some businesses winners and others losers. The winners did something different – they invested, they researched, they had contingencies plans.
African Continental Free Trade Area
The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) has taken effect this new year. This presents an opportunity for Ghanaian businesses to expand and access the entire African market of 1.3 billion people. AfCFTA is expected to boost Africa’s combined GDP by 1% to 3%, create employment opportunities, improve trade across Africa, and promote private sector development.
With Ghana being host of the AfCFTA Secretariat, members of AGI should position ourselves to become the hub of African enterprise. We must strengthen our corporate governance systems, redefine our business models, and realign our brands in order to remain competitive vis-à-vis the expected ease in movement of goods and services across borders, as a result of the removal or reduction of import tariffs on most goods and services produced in Africa. The AfCFTA is not only opportunity for businesses but also to the consumer. This means consumers would have a choice and compare products by quality and price. Until businesses invest in technology and product development, we may not be able to compete with goods coming other African countries.
Partnership with Government
Over the years we have enjoyed a good working relationship with successive governments. It is our expectation that this cooperation will continue under the current administration. As efforts are underway to form a new government, we urge government to integrate the interests of the private sector in policy formulation and implementation, such that the sector will be empowered to reap the benefits of AfCFTA for the country.
We believe that the continuous support of Government for the private sector will make Ghana a hub for business growth in Africa. We encourage Government to earnestly pursue policies that will ease the business environment, reduce cost of capital and financing, and remove all regulatory bottlenecks. As businesses continue to manage the aftermath of Covid-19, we expect that Government will continue to bail out troubled businesses and provide stimulus packages to support efforts by businesses to bounce back.
We shall continue to engage government to ensure that stimulus plan for larger businesses will be operationalized speedily. So far, government stimulus programme that has been implemented has targeted small businesses.
We don’t know what is in store but we must be hopeful and steadfast in the midst uncertainty. Businesses that build capacity to withstand shocks are the ones that will prevail in this new year and beyond.
On this note, I wish each and every member of AGI, particularly members of the Greater Accra Chapter a very prosperous and successful new year.