Many a times our leaders in Africa agree on novelty ideas which in theory will transform the Continent and it’s people. The unfortunate thing is that these ideas are drafted by Technocrats who have little or no practical experience on how these ideas will be implemented. Our political leaders are happy to sign onto these ideas because it gives them chorus to sing to their populace.
We had Vision 2020, the ECOWAS currency ECO just to mention a few. These policies were mentioned in every political speech given in Ghana some 10 to 15 years ago. What happened to Ghana attaining Middle Income Satus by 2020? What happened to ECOWAS countries having a single currency?
Just like the AfCFTA, the ECO office was first established in Ghana with all the celebration and resources given for this to work. As early as 2018, the ECOWAS heads of State said they will achieve single currency by 2020. What happened??
I am not a Thomas, but am a firm believer in don’t put the cart before the horse. The infrastructure needed to establish African free trade does not exist. One of the key index that AfCFTA seek to promote and improve is Informal Cross border Trade, ICBT. To achieve this there should be easy movement of people and goods.
Regional transportation of goods and people does not exist or is too expensive. Plane tickets to neighboring countries are almost as expensive as going to Europe or UAE. In most Instances we do not have direct flights making traveling very difficult and expensive. There is no Cargo flights that operates within West Africa.
To ship a container of goods from Ghana to Nigeria, that container will go to Europe before being delivered to Nigeria. This applies to most African countries trying to move goods by ship. Solely because we do not have any shipping lines operating within Africa. This is the reason Dr Kwame Nkrumah established the Black Star shipping line. As a visionary leader who understood the practical problems, he started with infrastructure (The How).
The Chinese can ship plywood from China to Nigeria cheaper than a Ghanaian sawmill can ship to Nigeria. Even if he pays the duty and the Ghanaian pays no duty. The transactions in Africa among African Nations will be in US Dollars or Euro.
So let me ask, Where is the Independence if you have to use western ships and cargo plans, western currency?
Our leaders need to solve the basics first and stop big ideas that can only be a chorus in political speeches. It’s not too late to start. I am not even going to talk about high cost of production due to high energy cost.
Our leaders should assemble rich businessmen not cronies, to assist with the idea of starting African shipping lines, Air Cargo and Railway. Without this Infrastructure, AfCFTA will join ECO and Vision 2020 as library documents.