Top media personalities across Africa have called for the formation of a pan-African group of trade journalists who will champion the AfCFTA agenda as well as an African Chamber of Commerce led by individual countries.
The group of journalists were of the view that the formation of such a body is the surest way to sensitise the continent on the merits of the AfCFTA.
They made the call during a webinar hosted jointly by the African Prosperity Network (APN), organisers of the Africa Prosperity Dialogues (APD), and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat in Ghana on Tuesday, December 19, 2023.
The objective of the webinar was to champion the propagation of the AfCFTA concept and all its economic benefits across the continent, as well as explore and strategise on how African media can engage people and promote information-disseminating services across the continent.
The webinar comes a month ahead of the next APD, slated to take place from January 25 to 27, 2024 at the Peduase Presidential Lodge at Aburi Hills, Ghana.
In his opening remarks, the Founder/Executive Chairman of the Africa Prosperity Network (APN), Gabby Otchere-Darko, said that “the AfCFTA is arguably the biggest project for Africa” and every effort must be made to ensure its full implementation as seamlessly as possible.
In his opinion, “the small trader in Lagos must understand the significance of being able to sell, especially with the support of technology, what she trades in another country on the African continent without having to pay any duties and other charges”.
For Africans to own the whole concept of free trade and to understand how relevant or impactful it can be to their livelihoods, Mr Otchere Darko underscored the important role of the media, saying, “This is where the media comes in and how we can get the media to unpack this free trade story of the continent is really what this conversation is all about”.
“It took a powerful media to get one country to leave a single market and I am talking about Brexit. In the same vein, it will take a powerful media on this (African) continent to understand that if we come together to this single market, it will benefit all of us,” he added.
The webinar focused on four thematic areas through which the media can support the continental drive toward the full implementation of the AfCFTA. They were: “opportunities and challenges in the AfCFTA; the media’s role in engaging citizens; beyond blocks ― talking to each other, and making information regarding the AfCFTA, flow freely throughout the continent.
Speaking on the opportunities and challenges in creating a single African market, Dr Tsotetsi Makong, chief technical advisor, at the AfCFTA Secretariat and Charles Onyango-Obbo, author/columnist at the Nation Media Group, East Africa, observed that the major challenge facing the continent was youth unemployment.
They said the problem could be resolved or exacerbated depending on what the continent does or does not do with the AfCFTA.
Dr Makong was of the view that the trade volumes between the African continent and countries like China, the United States of America (USA), the European Union (EU), India, and the United Kingdom (UK), among others, are out there already.
What is now important is “how the continent can shift this phenomenon to reflect trade between fellow African countries,” he stated.
The African continent, according to Dr Makong, “is not trading with the world, but the world is trading with us (the African continent) and if this script continues in this manner, it will certainly go against the economic fortunes of the African continent, Dr Makong posited.
“Having a pan-African chamber of commerce is absolutely essential for the success of the AfCFTA. Considering the amount of distrust between African trade and investment counter-parties, the unavailability of a credible institution to do due diligence of potential partners would prevent intra-African transactions from being consummated”, Toma Imirhe said.
“A pan-African chamber of commerce working in partnership with a continental media group would spur the needed action for stickiness of the AfCFTA. “We need a clear series of master messages that the Free Trade Area wants to get across, and so there should already be a network of journalists across Africa that are regularly working on the issues of the organisation”, said Kojo Mensah.
Continent of choice
Yofi Grant, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) a strategic partner of the Africa Prosperity Dialogues, observed that the rest of the world is meeting with Africa or coming to Africa because the continent is where the opportunities are.
He identified three of the several opportunities that existed on the continent and mentioned the “huge deposits of mineral resources that are a requirement for the energy transition the world is tilting towards, as a major attraction”.
Another major point of interest, Mr Yofi Grant stated, was that not less than 40% of the world’s minerals were in Africa.
Furthermore, he identified Africa’s population, which is being touted as the fastest growing in the world, with approximately 1.4 billion as another global attraction.
He said a significant proportion of that demography is young, under the age of 35 years, and that in itself is a major consumer market waiting to happen and a very important source of human capital for the world’s next development and growth.
Additionally, he said “Africa is home to 60% of the world’s remaining arable land left for cultivation, so, if you are looking at food security globally, you cannot have that conversation without talking about Africa.
“Indeed, Africa is where the next bulk of the world’s food should come from,” Mr Grant said. On the strength of these resources, Mr Yofi Grant stated that the AfCFTA is a journey that the continent must embark on together if the continent is to get out of the bottom of the pile regarding development.
The media, he said, must be the pivot around which the continent must pursue this agenda.
Other speakers present at the webinar were Patrick Smith Editor-in-chief of The Africa Report; Ferial Haffajee Associate Editor of Daily Maverick (South Africa), George Jahraa(“Ashikele”), Singer/Songwriter Charles Onyango-Obbo Writer and Columnist Nation Media Group
Africa Prosperity Dialogues (APD)
APD is organised by the Africa Prosperity Network (APN) in collaboration with the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat. Next January’s dialogues will be hosted by the President of Ghana, who has invited several of his fellow African Heads of State, plus the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, President Irfaan Ali.
APD 2024 retreat will take place from 25-27 January 2024, at Peduase Presidential Lodge, Aburi Hills, in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
There will be a presidential dinner gala and the Africa Prosperity Champions Awards ceremony on the night of January 26 at the Kempinski Gold Coast City Hotel in Accra.
To register for the Africa Prosperity Dialogues 2024, Please go to: https://events.africaprosperitynetwork.com
Credit: Africa Prosperity Network