I welcome all of you to Ghana and to Peduase Lodge for the second edition of the Africa Prosperity Dialogues. Looking at the impressive list of African personalities who have come here to the President’s official retreat in the serene hills of Aburi, I am mightily encouraged that Africa now has a private sector that is ready, deliberate and eager to see that sixty-(60)-year-old dream of a united Africa manifests.
The difference, perhaps, between then and today, is that the focus is on an area where there can be no debate – economic integration. How we facilitate the free movement of people, goods and services across this vast and resourceful mass, Africa, is what we must devote our energies to.
Ladies and gentlemen, Africa is blessed. Africa is not a poor continent. In fact, Africa is too rich to be poor! Our continent has every natural resource imaginable – oil, gas, minerals and an abundance of sunlight. We have some sixty-five percent (65%) of all arable land available to feed nine billion (9 billion) people globally by 2050, and our continent is home to the most youthful population in the world. We have everything we need to transform Africa into a global powerhouse of the future.
We must, therefore, remind ourselves consistently of the prospects she has, and our individual and collective responsibilities to turn prospects into productivity that can generate prosperity for our peoples.
I am excited and proud that, once again, I have had the privilege to host the Africa Prosperity Dialogues, an excellent initiative aimed at facilitating understanding, dialogue and commitment to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) initiative. I congratulate the organisers, the Africa Prosperity Network, for their vision, and their ability to attract this formidable lineup of strategic partners should leave no one in doubt that this is a project that requires all the support we can muster.
What the Africa Prosperity Dialogues have provided is a unique platform, dedicated to mobilising Africa’s energetic private sector to own and drive the fulfilment of the promises that the AfCFTA presents. The theme for this year’s Dialogues speaks directly to what we have to do if we are to make the AfCFTA meaningful. Without the capacity to industrialise, add value to our raw materials, and invest to build the social, digital, economic and physical infrastructures that will connect our peoples and businesses to customers across Africa, intra-Africa trade would remain at the negligible lows that it has always been.
Indeed, Africa accounts for only three percent (3%) of global trade, and intra-African trade is one of the lowest of any region globally. This is largely due to the “colonial” economic model, characterised by small individual economies, fragmented and disconnected regional markets, over-reliance on the export of primary commodities, and the presence of low productive capacities, which have been well in existence for over a century.
By fostering intra-African trade, the AfCFTA is going to ensure that it continues to create opportunities for businesses to expand beyond their borders, driving economic growth and creating a more integrated and interconnected continent. To unlock the full potential of trade for prosperity, let us prioritise the development of efficient transportation and logistics infrastructure, streamline trade processes, and embrace digital technologies that facilitate cross-border transactions, without the need to depend on outside currencies.
These dialogues must emphasise that Africa has to go heavy on the promotion of sustainable farming practices, coupled with targeted investments in infrastructure for innovation and technology, especially in agribusiness and industry that boost production, whilst ensuring the resilience of our agricultural sector in the face of evolving global challenges and climate change.
These dialogues have to find ways to realise commitments that have been made loudly and clearly for African governments to deepen their resolve to achieving the decisions reached in the compact. It must be representative of all sectors needed to carry Africa, and ensure that the growth targets that are attained are sustainable, irrespective of future global changes.
These dialogues have to examine critically the responsibilities and expectations of the private sector, and demand same of the public sector, and assess how both can work as partners to achieve the Africa We Want. We must strengthen our resolve to work hand in hand with our governments in free and fair democratic systems of governance that promote safe and sound legal and institutional frameworks. Let us work to get the buy-in of the small trader, builder, farmer and seamstress, and make them believe that having a single market can benefit them as well.
As we delve into “Delivering Prosperity in Africa – Produce, Add Value, Trade,”, the theme of this year’s dialogues, let us embark on a journey that goes beyond rhetoric, transcending dialogue into actionable plans for transformative change. I know you came here not just to talk, but to spark action. I also know that, for many of you, you had to acquire a visa to come to this event, even though special arrangements for this conference reduced the visa acquisition fee by fifty percent (50%), and you were, thus, able to receive your visa on arrival. The Government of Ghana is committed to ensuring visa-free for all Africans travelling to our country, and the process has begun to get the policy implemented this year.
Once again, I warmly welcome you to Ghana, the host of the AfCFTA Secretariat. Please enjoy our very warm hospitality, and let this visit translate into a compact document that heralds an era of shared prosperity for all of Africa.
May God bless the Africa Prosperity Dialogues, and us all, and may God bless our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
I thank you for your attention.