An array of seasoned professionals selected across various sectors to deliberate on the National African Peer Review Mechanism Governing dialogue on corporate governance has called for support for businesses to leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The support is expected to boost intra-African trade, promote industrialisation, create jobs and improve the competitiveness of African industries on the global stage.
African nations currently trade more internationally than with one another as intra-African trade accounted for 17 per cent of African exports compared to 59 per cent for Asia and 68 per cent for Europe, according to the World Economic Forum.
Dubbed: “Corporate Governance as a Catalyst for the Implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the discussants said the private sector needed an enterprising mindset to succeed under the initiative.
Sharing his thoughts at the forum in Cape Coast on Monday, Dr. James Tuffour, a Lecturer at the University of Cape Coast School of Business, championed the need to harmonise the relevant policies, programmes, laws and regulations.
That, he said, was the way to boost the productive capacities of the private sector in the country, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises, to harness the full benefits of AfCFTA.
“Maximising AfCFTA’s benefits will require Ghana developing a national strategy that will identify opportunities for financial growth and deliberately create the right environment, using policy to ensure that the private sector thrived,” Dr. Tuffour stated.
Broadly, the objective of the review was to identify and improve corporate governance policies, standards, and practices in the country to harness the benefits of the implementation of AfCFTA in the country.
Specifically, it examined corporate governance structures, legislation, and regulations to enhance the regulatory framework and environment for ease of doing business by companies.
The outcomes are expected to improve and increase cross-border trade, market access, capital flow, productivity, innovation, and competitiveness of domestic firms and the business sector’s position to optimize trade opportunities under the AfCFTA.
Nearly two decades ago, Ghana took the first step to offer itself to peer-review, and through that, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo commissioned a new review assessment of Ghana through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration together with NAPRM Government Council and Ghana’s targeted review Mission Team from South Africa.
Contributing to the discussions, Mr. Ralph Amuzu Ahianyo, the Human Resource Manager at the Komenda Sugar Factory, called for a well-diversified financial services industry that could support anything from start-up early-stage, growing businesses, and mature businesses.
“Financial support, transportation challenges and labour-related issues are affecting SMEs and if SMEs do not have those types of financing available, we probably will not be able to sustain our businesses,” he said.
Mr. Ahianyo expressed the hope that the successful implementation of the plan will boost the capacity of the private sector to take advantage of market access opportunities in Africa to promote ‘Made-in-Ghana’ goods and services.
African countries such as Ghana cannot overcome the current economic challenges induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war if they do not develop measures to improve the productive capacities of the private sector and increase intra-African trade.
Representatives of the Ghana Federation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) proposed the establishment of a Disability Fund to financially support only PWDs to grow their businesses.
Other speakers, who took turns to address the gathering, acknowledged that the effective operationalisation of the AfCFTA agreement in Ghana would significantly boost the balance of trade, stimulate investment and innovation, diversify exports, improve food security, foster structural transformation, enhance economic growth, and provide jobs for the youth.
Dr. Willard Mugadza, a consultant with the NAPRM– Governing, called on private entities to collaborate with the government and form synergies to take full advantage of AfCFTA.
According to him, industry actors have on-field knowledge, which makes them the right partner to help the government achieve its development objectives.
He said most private firms in Ghana were yet to develop a corporate strategy to gain a competitive advantage in the AfCFTA, months after trading had started.
He said the failure to develop a corporate strategy was not for the lack of knowledge of the AfCFTA, but the lack of ability to take advantage of the initiative and see Africa as a big market for their products.