Ghana’s delegation at the 52nd CPA Africa Regional Conference has moved a motion on the role of African Parliaments in accelerating Intra-African trade.
The motion which was moved by the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu on behalf of the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Alban Sumana Bagbin, and the Parliament of Ghana as a whole are expected to fashion out ways to stimulate local and intra-African trade in a bid to reduce the shocks of the global crises being felt by African countries.
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu in moving the motion outlined the significance of the trade agreement which he said will turn around the negative to extremely low economic growth being witnessed on the African market as well as its unsustainable fiscal deficits and the constant increase in rising debt levels.
“As a direct consequence of Covid- 19, African economies experienced negative to extremely low economic growth, unsustainable fiscal deficits, rising debt levels, huge populations being pushed below the poverty brackets, and balance of payment problems. As African economies were about to emerge from the shocks of Covid-19, entered the war in Ukraine which is affecting food, fuel, and steel products prices as well as access to international finance.”
“Besides, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, intra-African Trade will undoubtedly play a key role in ameliorating the poor living conditions of the disadvantaged and repositioning them towards medium to long term inclusive and sustainable growth.”
Making a strong case for member countries to engage in intra-trading, the Majority Leader in referencing a recent World Bank report said “the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) would yield the following results; Lift 30 Million Africans out of extreme poverty and boost the income of 70 Million others who live on less than $5.50 a day, Boost Africa’s income by $450 Billion by 2035 (a gain of 7%) while adding $76 Billion to the income of the rest of the world, Increase Africa’s export by $560 Billion mostly in manufacturing, and Boost wages for both skilled and unskilled workers by 9.8% and 10.3% respectively.”
He also called on all Member countries to prioritise the AfCFTA agreement which according to him presents an opportunity for “the African Continent to build infrastructural and trade frameworks that will boost in-country and Pan African economic capabilities and reduce the level of the Continent’s reliance on imports and prevent the situation where whenever the Western world and, increasingly these days, when China sneezes, Africa catches a cold.”
The Suame MP also decried the low level of sensitization of the Agreement within African Parliaments and among Parliamentarians in general which he attributed to it being “concluded in the chambers of the executive arm of government before they are brought and indeed rushed through parliament for ratification,” thereby denying parliamentarians of a thorough understanding of the agreement.
“The Parliaments and Parliamentarians have to confront local challenges and impediments by enacting relevant legislation to free the environment of bottlenecks. For instance, from Accra (Ghana’s capital city) to Aflao the Ghanaian Eastern border town, there are two Police/custom checkpoints. From Lome the capital of Togo to Hilla Conji the border town between Togo and the Republic of Benin there are 15 Check-points where traders have to disembark from their vehicles for the inspection of passports and other documents.
From the Western border to the Eastern border of Togo is just 160km. Benin is 220km across and has 18 checkpoints. From Seme Poji, the West Coast border town to Lagos is about 120 km and that stretch has 20 Police, Customs, and Immigration Checkpoints.
How is trade facilitated by this, he questioned?
He also added that “if the necessary relevant legislations are not put in place by the Parliaments to ultimately ensure equity and parity, the least developed countries would remain drawers of water and hewers of wood to lubricate the economies of the relatively advanced countries.”
Advancing some reasons for an Intra-Africa trade to be successful, Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the Continent’s “weak transportation network has to be addressed; in respect of rail, road and air transport simultaneously adding that Parliaments have to lead the way.”
In conclusion, he said “in some countries, low technological uptake and conflicts threaten the implementation of the Agreement. In West Africa, armed insurgency often at the instance of Islamist jihadists is on the ascendancy. Often times the conflict ensues from or is predicated on the politics of exclusion which render segments of the population marginalized and they become vulnerable and get preyed on by the insurgents.
The Minority leader Haruna Iddrisu in supporting the motion said Parliaments, have a role to play in pursuing decentralized administration to ensure that the countries of Africa and their composite States, provinces, and regions including all areas within the regions and districts are developed equitably.