Government has launched the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) Hub Concept in Accra.
According to government, the AFCFTA HUB Concept is aimed at promoting and enhancing digital trading.
Speaking at the launch, Minister for Communications and Digitization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said "The current twin challenges of covid aftershocks and the effects of the Russian Ukraine war on the global economy also present a unique opportunity for us to realise that our destiny is in our own hands and by looking within the continent to deepen our linkages, we can change the narrative and be truly self sufficient. All the ingredients for our success lie right in front of us and we cant afford to fail. Digital technology provides us with the means."
"We are pushing forward with AfCFTA with our eyes wide open. Fully aware of past dashed hopes and the pitfalls of globalization. We are moving forward with AfCFTA knowing full well that without efforts to truly bring down the barriers obstructing integration across Africa, we will get no where. We are pressing forward with AfCFTA in the clear knowledge that trade takes capacity and know-how. And we are launching the AfCFTA Hub in Ghana today because we have carefully thought through these matters and woven together a strategy that is both history-aware and future-focused"
Madam Ursula Owusu-Ekuful also explained that the AfCFTA Hub initiative brings together the AfCFTA Secretariat and strategic partners like AfroChampions working hand in hand with committed governments to create a network for accelerating the kinds of regional integration that will really drive the kind of trade that can deliver economic transformation.
She noted that countries like Ghana and the six others participating in the Guided Trade pilot to fast-track AfCFTA implementation can then interlink their own systems with the AfCFTA Hub.
Explaining further, the Communications Minister hinted that as a multistakeholder platform bringing together the AfCFTA Secretariat, relevant African Union Commission departments, national government agencies, AfroChampions and private sector platforms through the power and ingenuity of digital technology, the AfCFTA Hub is the principal tool for aligning Ghana’s own wide-ranging digitalization policy with the various opportunities presented by AfCFTA.
The sector Minister mentioned that her Ministry, Ministry of Finance and the Ministry and Trade & Industry, together with their departments and allied agencies and institutions, are happy to present the AfCFTA Hub policy directives, implementation strategies and operational models for inputs from all relevant stakeholders.
"First and foremost, Ghana as a continental leader in ICT innovation and adoption, sees it as an opportunity to export our ICT goods and services across Africa and beyond, and some of those prospects have already materialized. AfCFTA Hub should make it easier for technology startups and other producers of ICT goods and services to find markets across Africa. Our business process outsourcing landscape can be revitalized by AfCFTA as Ghana becomes a hub for call center, data processing, data science and various digital services for businesses all over the continent and beyond"
"Secondly, it is absolutely imperative to use digital technology to bolster the competitiveness of all sectors of the economy to enable economic actors in those sectors to expand their markets through AfCFTA. Enhanced productivity through the adoption of tools that can be made available through the AfCFTA Hub platform represents a seismic shift from costly time ineffective traditional capacity building approaches to a new cloud-based model whose time has truly come. The role that the AfCFTA hub can play in aggregating content and tools to capacitate businesses across the country to upgrade their know-how to engage more forcefully in export markets beyond Ghana is limited only by our imagination"
"Thirdly, the mechanisms of how we harness AfCFTA itself: the process of trading, financing trade, discovering our market strengths and gaps to fill’ the means of settlement, how the goods will leave our warehouses and be received on the other side; and the tools for linking our producers with consumers in other African countries and vice versa, all of these are being digitised and made available to all stakeholders through the AfCFTA Hub. Risk management is also key and the related ProPer Seals platform, currently being deployed by the FDA, plays a critical role"
Madam Ursula Owusu-Ekuful noted that the three strategies underpin Ghana’s quest to make AfCFTA work for her by leveraging its strong advantage in the digital technologies that its government has been systematically developing for five years now.
"It is the reality of a comprehensive end-to-end identity management system interlinked with credit management, human security, business facilitation, enhanced government administration and even the improvement of democracy itself. It is the reality of a new smart working environment across the public services enabled by productivity software and dramatically improved connectivity. It is the reality of the common platform, Ghana Card, SIM Card Registration, Smart Workplace, e-Transform, Obaatanpa, Trancop, digital addressing, fintechs and the revamp of the national fibreoptic network"
Madam Ursula Owusu-Ekuful stressed that with the AfCFTA Hub operationalised, it will become even harder to ignore the massive transformation created by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s unprecedented Digital Ghana Agenda.
"An agenda that when coupled with the big dreams of Pan-Africanism, as finally achieved through AfCFTA, can only launch this beloved country of ours and the entire continent into the dizzying heights of true development. This will give practical effect to our oft repeated phrase that the private sector is the engine of growth as it will propel our SMEs to another level"
"As the accelerated AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative commences in pilot form with Ghana and six other proactive African countries taking charge, we shall commence onboarding young entrepreneurs, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), startups and all digital marketplace actors across the country onto the AfCFTA Hub, where they can obtain a free AfCFTA Number"
Explaining further on the AfCFTA Number, she noted that it is the powerful seed of a single continental trust-building system that will complement other AfCFTA-enabling instruments such as the PAPSS, MANSA, Digital Green Corridor and e-Tariff mechanisms developed by the AfCFTA Secretariat, African Union, the 4D Consortium and trusted partners like Afreximbank and AfroChampions.
She mentioned that with the AfCFTA number, Ghanaian enterprises will obtain a sure and secure navigational tool as well as a trusted profile to speed up connections across the continent for business.
"Together with the AfCFTA Common Transaction ID, the AfCFTA Number will also serve critical anti-fraud and crime-fighting purposes domestically and regionally. It will build confidence in both the entities and individuals who use their services locally and internationally that they have the requisite capability to deliver on their promised services as they would have been properly vetted and certified by the requisite regulators. It will create a true one stop shop akin to our own Amazon, EBay or Alibaba. It is doable and Ghana, the African Black Star, is blazing the trail once again"
"For these and many other reasons, we are announcing directives meant to speed up the adoption of the AfCFTA Number and the AfCFTA Common Transaction ID frameworks in Ghana. Beginning immediately, all persons and enterprises engaged in the business of courier, postal, delivery, logistics, ride-sharing, e-commerce, digital trading and any enterprise of that nature are required to obtain an AfCFTA Number at no cost at www.afcfta.app, which is the AfCFTA Hub Gateway"
"The regulation of such enterprises which hitherto has been a grey area will be strengthened by requiring electronic registration with Postal and Courier Services Regulatory Commission, the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) and the Cybersecurity Authority through the digital interface available on the AfCFTA Hub at www.afcfta.app. The various regulatory functions of reporting, complaints management, penalties and fine management, licensing, certification and the like shall be conducted electronically on this platform. As more African countries onboard, as part of the upcoming Guided Trade pilot, the emergence of a one-stop-shop for regulatory compliance across the subregion should make the lives of entrepreneurs and their customers very easy. All one needs to do to find out if any courier company, SME or e commerce entity is safe to do business with is to check their AfCFTA Number and transaction ID"
Madam Ursula Owusu-Ekuful underscored that with the AfCFTA Number widely adopted and regulatory certification taking place on a unified platform, the process of validating the background of any commercial entity should become highly automated, quick, and hassle-free.
She stated that it will also enable the different digital marketplaces, platforms, networks and e-commerce systems to collaborate and deliver even higher value for all Ghanaians and citizens of AfCFTA member states.
"We see examples of such cross-platform connectivity currently in place in India, where the Open Network for Digital Commerce is accelerating the uptake of e-commerce by eliminating gaps and conflicts among providers. Such multistakeholder interoperable ecosystems are vital for expanding the benefits of digitalisation, e-commerce, virtual marketplaces and e-services to underserved populations in rural areas and among the urban underclasses. We see similar developments in Estonia, Turkey, and Dubai. We intend to become global pacesetters in how government, working together with an intergovernmental authority like the AfCFTA Secretariat and the private sector, can roll out smart networks that deliver benefits for all consumers, business, agencies and other critical actors. This platform is akin to the PanaBIOS initiative that enabled the safe reopening of our borders and was also the product of multi sectoral and cross continental collaboration. Ghanaian ingenuity and innovation powered both systems, I’m proud to announce"
"The purpose of convening this forum, is to refine and enrich this obvious endgame. By making it mandatory for all businesses and enterprises running delivery, courier, logistics, postal, marketplace and digital commerce activities to register electronically with the right and relevant regulators, we expect online service providers such as Uber, Glovo, Bolt, Jumia, Tonaton, Yango, Amazon and others to ensure that all businesses registered on their platforms promptly secure their AfCFTA Number and start taking the necessary steps to integrate their transaction processing systems with the AfCFTA Hub. Done properly, all customers of such businesses and services will be able to verify and validate their regulatory and compliance status, thereby increasing trust in the marketplace, boosting uptake of digital services, suppressing fraud, and increasing the efficiency of doing business in Ghana and beyond"
Touching on the telecom industry, she revealed that it should benefit from the related policy of deploying the AfCFTA Hub as a common fraud reporting node and blacklist database harmoniser because of this regional element.
She noted that without regional solutions, criminals will exploit the gaps among countries to evade apprehension.
"The NCA, the Ghana Chamber of Telecoms, the Ghana ISP Association and related bodies are strongly urged to speed up the rollout of the AfCFTA Hub across all telecom networks as a common anti-fraud engine, business directory service and AfCFTA Implementation Accelerator. This should make it more difficult for fraudsters to use online sales and mobile money payments for online transactions as a means to defraud the unsuspecting public as more trade moves online"
The Sector Minister hinted that rollout of the AfCFTA Hub will ensure that Ghanaian businesses have a trusted profile beyond Ghana, to strengthen the hands of industry and regulators to fight fraudsters who will also like to use AfCFTA to regionalise their nefarious activities, and to facilitate marketplace convergence and regulatory efficiency.
Taking his turn, the Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry Herbert Krapa said "The African Continental Free Trade Area, the largest since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, if properly implemented, will resolve for our exporters, issues of trade finance and productive capacity, trade facilitation and trade related infrastructure, free movement of goods and persons, and very importantly, trade information"
Mr. Krapa noted that it will make Africa one giant market for traders and exporters, provide an inevitable basis for value addition through the rules of origin and hence a boost in intra - African trade through better harmonisation and coordination.
He also noted that it will engender economic diversification and industrialisation through regional value chains, provide jobs for Africa’s youth and improve the standard of living of all our people. It is arguably the biggest stimulus yet for an industrialised Africa.
"The National Coordination Office is providing the needed technical anchor for Ghana’s implementation to be successful and the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation, whose mandate it is to facilitate the development of a reliable and cost-effective world-class digital infrastructure and services for the people of Ghana, should be seen by the NCO from today, as their natural partners on all matters bordering digital trade, e-Commerce, e-market place, fintechs and the like"
"Today, by the power of digital technology, no one should be left out of anything, and not the opportunities of continental trade. Selling a service to customers in Kigali or Yaoundé or Rabat, if it was before a nightmare, it is now only a button’s click away. We must take advantage of the array of digital tools and electronic platforms available to us, to deepen our trade in goods and services across the continent, and if anyone can provide the leadership in that regard, alongside other relevant stakeholders, the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation is"
He noted that his Ministry welcomes therefore, the implementation of the AfCFTA Hub in Ghana.
Explaining further, he noted that the world has today moved to e-Commerce and digital trade, and government is alive to the responsibility of not only opening up the required infrastructure but also protecting our SMEs and Startups who utilise electronic platforms.
"The AfCFTA Number and AfCFTA Common Transaction Identifier, together, constitute a bold, significant and decisive step to making AfCFTA work for our yam exporter, to by the click of a button, know where the demand is for her goods, who can provide her logistics, freight and haulage support and still be protected from the pervasive cancer of online fraud: Bringing AfCFTA Home to her"
He assured that the Ministry of Trade and Industry will lend its fullest and dedicated support for the successful roll out of the AfCFTA Hub in Ghana.
On his part, President of AGI, Dr. Ayim-Darke commended government for the great initiative.
Dr. Ayim-Darke said "The AFCFTA dream of creating one market out 1.3 billion citizens with 55 countries with GDP growth of 33.5 Trillion is a welcoming and an ambitious project"
"The hub is a welcoming opportunity which is anchored on job creation, digital trade and one market" He noted that the hub will develop structures that will aid the actualization of the said dream.
"We in the AGI as well as the private sector welcoke this initiative. The AFCFTA number and the AFCFTA common transaction identifier as a tool of operation needs awareness creation, and further engagements with the private sector for a successful objective"
"The expected primary outcomes from the AFCFTA Hub is encouraging to list a few. Create awareness among businesses"
He stressed that the AGI appreciates and respects SMEs.
National Coordinator, National Coordinating Office, AFCFTA, Dr. Fareed Arthur said "We have been able to target and audited 211 companies of which 110 has been successfully audited and prepared for training"
He revealed that there is a process ongoing to help the companies get the rules of origin certification.
In an interview with Thinknewsonline.com, Chair of Kwarleyz Group, Freedom Jacob Caesar commended government for the great initiative.
He was optimistic that Ghana's acceptance will help deal with the issue of unemployment among the youths in the country.
"These are some of the things the youths in Africa are lacking. That is why there is no hope. But I want to turn it around. I will come back and invest in the youth and help get rid or eradicate the fear in them"
He also said "I really think that this is the point where Africa has to operate, manufacture and explore the mineral resources and make benefits out of it"
Story by: Joshua Kwabena Smith