Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey makes strong case for Intra-Africa Trade

Ghana’s Foreign Minister, Ms. Shirley A. Botchwey, has  made an impassioned case for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), to an audience of hundreds of business leaders in Namibia, and two southern African Presidents and members of their cabinets. 

Speaking as a special guest at the opening of the Sixth Swakopmund International Trade Expo (SWAiTEX) Ms. Botchwey said: “It is our responsibility as leaders in government, industry, finance, SMEs, startups, regulation and civil society to harness our collective resources and capabilities towards an efficient market in trade and services, job creation, and prosperity for all Africans.” 

The event in Swakopmund, 360km west of the capital, Windhoek, was attended by Presidents Nangolo Mbumba of Namibia, and Mogkweetsi Masisi of Botswana whose delegation included his Vice President Slumber Tsogwane and, in his own words, “half of my cabinet because we want to trade; we want to do serious business.” 

“The African Continental Free Trade Area is the beacon of hope for Africa’s economic resurgence, Ms. Botchwey said, quoting the South African AfCFTA Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene, and adding: “We agree wholeheartedly.” 

Resplendent in an African-print attire and hand-woven kente shawl over her shoulders, Ms. Botchwey, a former deputy trade minister, said Africans must make “African products our preferred products,” while building partnerships regionally and across the continent to service the common market.  

As a free trade area, connecting 1.3 billion people across 55 countries, with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$3.4 trillion, she said the AfCFTA, which is headquartered in Ghana, promises immense new markets, accelerated industrialization and fresh investment opportunities. 

The theme for the expo is “Efficient Connectivity and Resource Beneficiation for Sustainable Growth in Africa.”   

Ms. Botchwey acknowledged that African economies were currently facing challenging headwinds, including cascading impacts on debt, energy, food security, cost of living,  unemployment and climate crises.  

However, she pointed out that “the transformative potential of the AfCFTA shows that we can overcome our challenges and build resilient economies.”  

She said Ghana was pleased that creative initiatives were being introduced to expedite trading under the AfCFTA, including payments settlements. 

           She commended Namibia for recently joining an AfCFTA-Guided Trade Initiative with Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Cameroon.  “This affirms your commitment and political will for meaningful trade within the African continent,” Ms. Botchwey told President Mbumba who assumed office in February following the death of President Hage Geingob 

The Guided Trade Initiative was established in 2022 as an interim measure to begin trade among interested parties, once they have met the minimum threshold for trading under the AfCFTA. It is designed to test the Agreement’s capacity to function as envisaged, and indentify and fix imperfections.  

A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed in April 2023 between the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre and the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board to  facilitate investment and trade flows between the two countries, under the umbrella of the AfCFTA. 

Ms. Botchwey, a candidate for Commonwealth Secretary-Genereal, has made trade and investment a major plank of her vision.  Namibia, Botswana and Ghana are among Africa’s 21 Commonwealth countries. There are 56 of them altogether. 

She said developing countries with overlapping memberships in multilateral institutions must work together consciously and strategically to change their marginalized status in global trade and governance.