Towards free market: Africa’s ’prosperity dialogue’ confronts many barriers
TRT World | 26th January 2023
By TRT World
The Ghana summit is aimed at achieving deeper economic integration between African states and outlining its industrialisation priorities.
As fast changing geopolitical realities and health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic have brought to light Africa’s over-reliance on global supply chains, the Ghana Summit sharpens its focus on making the continent self-reliant while increasing its production capacity in various industrial fields.
The flagship edition of The Africa Prosperity Dialogue Series is taking place from January 26 to 28 in Ghana, which is the host nation of the AfCFTA (The African Continental Free Trade Area) Secretariat.
A general consensus on reducing trade barriers exists amongst African leaders, as demonstrated by the fact that 54 African countries have signed the AFCTA agreement.
Eritrea is the only African country which is yet to come on board.
A majority of African states agreed to work toward creating a free trade continent in 2018 when former US President Donald Trump threatened to upend the global supply chain order in a bid to maintain American trade hegemony.
In the run-up to the prosperity dialogue, regional experts urged the African leadership to work towards transitioning such events into concrete actions.
Building trust and confronting challenges
Joseph Atta-Mensah, Principal Policy Adviser at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, expressed his optimism if the Ghana Summit continued building trust between African leaders and states.
"What this dialogue can do if successful will be to lead to the institutionalisation of a space where Africans can meet to discuss African problems, to find solutions to them," Atta-Mensah told Accra-based Asaase Radio.
Briefing the media in the capital Accra on Thursday, the Secretary General of AfCTA, Wamkele Mene said the conference was aiming to “advance Africa and confront the challenges of development.”
The event will be carried out in two parts. The first will feature the Business and Policy Leaders’ dialogue, while the second part will be hosted by the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and will take place on January 28.
President Akufo-Addo will be joined by a number of fellow heads of state from across the eight regional blocs on the African continent.
Notable expected attendees of the conference include the leaders of Rwanda, Niger, Egypt, Nigeria, DRC, and the Republic of Congo as well as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, amongst others.
Accomplished entrepreneurs, industrialists, economists, bankers, and other business leaders in Africa and beyond have also confirmed their attendance.
Challenges to economic Integration
According to the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) The AfCFTA arguably has the highest income disparities between its member countries than other continental free trade agreements.
“Together, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt – three out of 54 countries – account for about 50% of Africa’s GDP. So the African single market brings together unequal economies with varying production capacities.”
Pre-existing inequalities mean that more advanced countries, cities, manufacturing firms and the African economic elite could benefit the most from the trade increase.
The AfCFTA also suffers from a lack of popular perception about its advantages across the board, as African businesses in particular are not fully aware about the advantages of the AfCFTA.
This is demonstrated in a study from the Centre for the Study of Economies of Africa in Nigeria, which shows that more than 60 percent of Nigeria’s entrepreneurs remained unaware of the AfCFTA and its possible benefits.
In addition, protectionist policies implemented by African leaders have persisted. Meanwhile, the effort to persuade them about the advantages of the AfCFTA and refocusing from exports to Europe for instance, to their neighbours, have taken much more time than anticipated by the advocates of intra-Africa trade.
Thus, the meeting in Ghana is very important, as it is launching various platforms for political, business and social sector leaders on the continent and in the diaspora to think, plan and collaborate towards building a strong and effective single market of Africa’s 1.4 billion people.