The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) has called for education among traders on the African continent to ensure the smooth running of intra-free trade to avoid a repetition of the problems faced by traders on the continent in the past.

This comes on the back of the handing over of the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to the African Union (AU) Commission, at a brief ceremony, at the Africa Trade House, on Monday, 17th August 2020 by Ghanaian leader President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

The AfCFTA Secretariat will apply the free trade agreement which will create a single market for 55 countries with a combined population of 1.2 billion and a total Gross Domestic Product of about USD2.5 trillion.

Speaking in an interview with Class Business on Monday, 18 August 2020, President of GUTA, Dr Joseph Obeng noted that the trading community in Ghana will take advantage of every opportunity that comes with the continental free trade to remain relevant.

Dr Obeng stated: “For us the trading community, we’re bracing ourselves up for any opportunity that the continental free trade area will bring. The supply chain, we want to be very relevant, we don’t have to be at the receiving end. We have to find the opportunities to supply to the rest of Africa to better our lot.

“I can also foresee that in this regard, barter system is going to be enhanced. That we find the market elsewhere, we buy, we send our goods there, and then we use the resources also to buy the goods and it will be a two-way benefit for us and we’re looking at all these prospects.

Dr Obeng also commended the idea of the AfCFTA by the Africa leaders to promote trade.

“So it’s a very good system that the African leaders have come up with but it should proceed with education so that we do not encounter the problems such as the one that we’re encountering with the other economic blocks in Eastern Africa, Western Africa, Ecowas, and the Southern African one.”

Meanwhile, delivering a speech at the ceremony to hand over of the Secretariat, President Akufo-Addo stated that Ghana had discharged all of her obligations towards the establishment and the setting up of the office, following the selection of Ghana, in 2019, by the AU Assembly to host the AfCFTA Secretariat.

“We are today, handing over a fully furnished and befitting office space, in a secured and easily accessible location within the business centre of Accra, as the Permanent Secretariat of the AfCFTA. We have provided also an appropriate, furnished residential accommodation as the official residence of the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA,” he said.

With Africa’s low levels of intra-Africa trade, as compared to those of the European Union, the President explained that this situation hinders Africa’s prospects of bringing prosperity to her peoples.

“A large part of the growth and prosperity that we seek on the continent will come from us trading more among ourselves. We, in Ghana, believe that an increase in trade is the surest way to deepen regional integration in Africa,” he said.

An effective implementation of the AfCFTA, President Akufo-Addo told the gathering, will dispel the notion that the AU is not capable of executing its own decisions, explaining that Africa’s new sense of urgency and aspiration of true self-reliance will be amply demonstrated by the handing over ceremony.

The President, thus, appealed to all Member States, who are yet to ratify the AfCFTA Agreement, to take advantage of the postponement of the date for start of trading, and do so by December 2020, to enable AU Member States to trade fully among themselves, so Africa can harness the benefits of the AfCFTA together.

“The pandemic has heightened the importance of the success of the AfCFTA. The disruption of global supply chains has reinforced the necessity for closer integration amongst us so that we can boost our mutual self-sufficiency, strengthen our economies, and reduce our dependence on external sources,” he said.

The President continued, “We are now the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, and we must make it count. Covering a market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined GDP of USD3 trillion, across the fifty-four (54) Member States of the AU that have signed up to the Agreement, it will provide the vehicle for us to trade among ourselves in a more modern and sophisticated manner; it will offer a huge opportunity to exploit the abundant wealth and resources of our great continent for the benefit of all our people, and it will give us protection in how to deal with other trading blocks.”