Dr. Owusu Afriyie-Akoto, NPP presidential hopeful

A flagbearer hopeful of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has admonished Ghana and Zimbabwe to immediately scale up trade among themselves under the framework of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) considering the economic distress they are experiencing.

According to him, the impact of the global economic recession on the two countries gives credence to calls for Accra and Harare to find solutions to their own problems.

One such solution, he noted, is to increase trade volumes among themselves since there exist many opportunities that could be explored to achieve that feat.

Speaking as the Guest of Honour at the Zimbabwe-Ghana Business Forum which opened in Accra on Monday, and expected to end on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, the immediate-past Minister of Food and Agriculture further noted that the volume of trade among countries within the African continent was too small compared to the total global trade.

“This event could not be 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-Africa exports as a percentage of total African exports, it tells us that internal trade on the continent is a must”, he noted.

Statistics from the AfCFTA show that trade between Ghana and Zimbabwe stood at just a little over US$3 million in 2022.

Worried about this development, he called for Africa to increase trade among its countries using the framework of the AfCFTA, which is 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.

According to Dr. Afriyie Akoto, who is also a former Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwadaso Constituency in the Ashanti Region, 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.

“So many beautiful ideas have died natural deaths because not enough people have taken the first step. I must therefore commend ZimTrade, the national trade development and promotion organization of the Republic of Zimbabwe for taking this initiative to come into the Ghanaian market”, he posited.

He said are significant potentials for the two countries to 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).

AfCFTA initiative

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Ghana, Dr. Kufa Edward Chinoza in his opening remarks was hopeful that with initiatives such as the AfCFTA, trade agreement and business linkages through such fora, there will 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 want to diversity and explore new markets.

“These initiatives can, indeed, lead to increased trade between our two countries”, Ambassador Chinoza added.

He said intra-Africa trade remains at low levels, averaging below 18%, 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.

Ghana, Zimbabwe trade relations

The AfCFTA Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene, 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 La Cote D’Ivoire combined are the largest producers of cocoa, producing more than 70% of global production.

“Zimbabwe produces over US$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 Organization (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.

“So, the opportunity now for business and industrial production to scale is being presented by the AfCFTA, through the elimination and reduction of various rules in the intra-Africa trade,” he stated.

Both Ghana and Zimbabwe have ratified the legal framework for harmonization of AfCFTA trade rules, making it easier for them to trade among themselves.