The maiden edition of the Policy Network’s “Media Symposium” came off on Wednesday with a resounding call for the media to be actively involved in discussions around the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). While some media houses participating had heard of the agreement, some remained skeptical about the prosecution of the AfCFTA Agenda.
Country Director of the Policy Network, Louis Yaw Afful, explained that the objective of the Symposium was to help the media better-understand the AfCFTA agreement. In an interview, Afful bemoaned the slow pace at which Ghana is preparing for the AfCFTA as it may affect Ghana’s gains in 2020.
While he was quick to applaud the government on the three-day sensitization seminar organised in August, he believes by now, the edifice should have been re-named to the Afcfta Secretariat, with the seven clusters the government identified becoming a policy document for all Ghanaians to study and understand. He wondered whether it was a lack of funding why the government had appeared so slow to act on greater sensitization.
Meanwhile, Deputy Country Director, E K Bensah Jr has said that the Symposium is coming in the wake of the “Doing Business” Report, which indicated that Ghana had dropped a number of places. Bensah explained that Ghana had to “up its game by identifying loopholes and challenges that are frustrating our services sector…that makes it difficult for us to serve and support the African Union and our Ministries of Trade and Industry in delivering” the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Moses Atiga, a lawyer and member of the AfCFTA Policy Network-Ghana & Diaspora, speaking in a voice note for the Symposium explained that “essentially, what do we stand to gain in this whole AfCFTA agreement? This whole negotiation by countries must be holistic, meaning that it must involve every aspect of the economy.” He enumerates these as “animal and science experts; plant scientists; food safety experts; lawyers; trade unionists; ordinary man in the street; border officials; security official.” He explained that we must look at how the agreement will affect Ghanaians: “it should not be like Ministers should only front for negotiations” but they should “encompass every facet of life” as this agreement “is going to open Africa up to everything.”
Whether or not we are going to benefit from this agreement, lawyer Atiga avers, depends on the human resource available to the country. After the negotiations, there should be information right down to everybody explaining to them that there are no longer restrictions. One can no longer say the market is reserved. What are we going to do to reduce risk and maximise benefits? What do we do about the influx of persons that would even include criminals.
In essence, Afcfta is a good initiative, but the benefits depend on how the country strategizes towards it: “if you do not put your house in order, you may not benefit anything, but the risk may be overwhelming.”
The Media Symposium was an opportunity to help the media be better-acquainted on issues around the AfCFTA.
Media houses that attended include: TV3 Ghana; ModernGhana; Ghanamps.com; CITI FM; Angel T; B&FT; GhOneTV; Adom FM; Starr FM; ghananewsonline.com.gh
The AfCFTA Policy Network-Ghana & Diaspora is a membership-based international NGO that seeks to become a world-class Centre of Excellence on Education & Training on AfCFTA through seminars, workshops, and relevant activities. The Network works closely with the African Union’s Department of Trade & Industry, and relevant national stakeholders, including private and civil society sectors, to ensure the effective implementation of AfCFTA.