The Minister for Trade and Industry, Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, has presented in Nairobi to the international community an innovative project dubbed the Pan African Trade Hub System (PATHS).
The Minister’s presentation was at a forum organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) attended by top officials of the African Union, the World Trade Organisation, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Trade Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
Also present were several African Ministers, CEOs of some major multinational corporations, business associations and chambers of commerce, heads of think tanks, academics, research firms and NGOs.
According to the Ghana Minister, PATHS aims, among other goals, to increase the values of Intra-African trade from the current approximately 5% of Africa’s total trade to some 25% in two decades, in order to promote greater African development, to create wealth, and to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Minister of Trade and Industry was one of the main speakers at the high level forum of UNCTAD on the topic “The African Continental Free Trade Area—Making it Work” as one of the side events at the just concluded tenth WTO Ministerial Conference which took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 15th to 18th December, 2015.
Dr. Spio-Garbrah described PATHS as continental public-private partnership of African international organisations, member governments, financial institutions, and the private sector which would be an aggregated e-commerce/m-commerce, e-procurement, and e-payments platform and portal. It is intended to converge and facilitate the work of a range of institutions and actors in the African trade ecosystem, from governments, customs and revenue agencies, commodity producers and traders, importers and exporters and other trade facilitation entities.
The Ghana Minister further stated some of the other benefits of the PATHS to include increasing African's percentage of total world trade from 2% to 10%; and to increase Intra-African Investment and Foreign Direct Investment, In addition, PATHS would improve the quality, standards and competitiveness of African goods and services in international trade; enable African SMEs to compete more effectively globally; as well as enable Africa to raise the service delivery and integration of banking and payments service infrastructure to international standards.
The PATHS is intended to be a public-private commercial partnership supported by the African Union, African Governments, African Chambers of Commerce and Industry and public-private investors as well as a profit making commercial enterprises. It is to be registered as a private company initially in Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius and Tunisia.
The Minister listed the PATHS stakeholders as the African Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities (RECs), African governments and public agencies, industrialists, manufacturers, commodity producers, warehousing companies, traders/brokers, financial institutions, banks, insurance companies, importers, exporters, freight forwarders, clearing agencies and online shoppers.
Elaborating on the Road Map to achieving the establishment of the PATHS, the Minister explained the steps to adopt in the bid to establishing the PATHS as continuing with the ICT architectural design and development, equity capital mobilisation, and obtaining the formal support of the AU and other African regional and national bodies for the initial platforms, products and services of PATHs to be finally launched to coincide with the proposed declaration of a Continental Free Trade Area for Africa in 2017 or whenever that agreement may be signed by African member states.
Following the Ghana Minister’s presentation to UNCTAD, the Government of Kenya, acting through its Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ambassador Amina Mohamed, immediately associated itself with the Ghanaian initiative and offered at a press conference in Nairobi to co-sponsor a resolution of support for PATHs for consideration by member states of the AU at a forthcoming summit meeting of Heads of State in 2016. The Ghana delegation to the WTO conference included two members of Parliament, the Acting High Commissioner of Ghana to Kenya, and senior officials of the Ministry of Trade and Industry based in Accra, Geneva and Brussels.
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