The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says African countries should strive to add value to their agricultural products.
Adding value to the raw materials and improving the continent’s manufacturing base, she said, was a major step for Africa to become competitive on the global market.
This was important to shore up investment, job, and wealth creation, she noted, stressing that, although the continent had been blessed with abundant products, “we cannot be trading the same things to each other.”
Dr Okonjo-Iweala made the call when she paid a courtesy call on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at the Jubilee House, in Accra.
The visit comes as the Organisation seeks Ghana’s support to champion the cause for Africa’s rapid economic growth.
The meeting discussed, among others, the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), participation and implications for countries on the continent, the global supply chain value, the fisheries sector, as well as the future of global digital trade and market access.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala said the WTO was pursuing an investment facilitation agreement which involved more than 100 countries.
This relates to the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture, including public stockholding for food security purposes, domestic agricultural support, cotton trade rules and market access.
The agreement is based on the concept that international agricultural trade is a critical factor in economic development and food security.
Consequently, restrictions on agricultural trade, in the form of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, can have distortionary impacts and limit trade’s contribution to both food security and livelihoods, and can reduce sustainability.
Likewise, domestic policies, such as agricultural support and non-tariff measures, can also have indirect effects in other countries by limiting trade opportunities.
On the continent’s participation in global trade, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said Africa played a vital part in the membership of the WTO.
“I look forward to strengthening our partnership with countries in the region.
“We must make sure we all work together to help our members in Africa take advantage of the opportunities offered by re-globalisation,” she noted.
The WTO Director-General bemoaned Africa’s share of global trade, which was less than three per cent.
“Therefore, the WTO is desirous to see both intra-African trade and global trade increase,” she noted.
Touching on the global digital trade, the WTO Director-General pointed out that the digital services trade was growing rapidly at about eight per cent per annum compared to other types of trade such as merchandise and goods.
“This is an area where our countries can benefit,” she noted, and commended Ghana for making giant strides in building a robust digital economy.
She hinted that the WTO was negotiating an e-commerce agreement that would decide the rules of digital trade for the future and urged the Government of Ghana to strive to participate in the processes.
President Nana Akufo-Addo said the country had made massive investments in its digitisation programme as well as promoting e-commerce.
The agenda is to ensure accelerated socio-economic growth for the benefit of the people.
The President assured that the Government would continue to work with the WTO at all levels, especially in areas where the Organisation would seek the country’s partnership and active participation in pursuing its development priorities.
He briefed the WTO Director-General on the country’s pursuit to develop and manufacture its own vaccines, saying plans were advanced to achieve that objective soon.
This follows the recent sod-cutting by the President for work to commence on the construction of a vaccine manufacturing plant at Medie, in Accra, a project that would see Ghana develop the capacity for the manufacturing of vaccines for various ailments such as COVID-19, Malaria, among others.
On the itinerary for the visiting WTO Director-General, she is expected to attend a series of meetings with Ghanaian authorities and take part in a public discussion on “Making Globalisation Work for Africa,” organized by the Institute of Economic Affairs.