Q & A with Louis Afful; Group Executive Director, AfCFTA Policy Network Group

Blossom Academy
September 22nd 2020

Q & A with Louis Afful; Group Executive Director, AfCFTA Policy Network Group

The Relevance of AfCFTA to African Data Scientists

1.  To start with, can you please tell us about yourself and AfCFTA?

My name is Louis Yaw Afful. I'm a trade practitioner and I focus more on free trade, trade policies, private sector, and social innovations. This is how AfCFTA came about, so around the network, an international NGO called the AfCFTA policy network (the largest free trade NGO with virtual, social media members across the globe) that taps into the professional aspect of everybody as a think tank. Basically, we represent people everywhere. We have a lot of flagship programs that we will be putting on our website soon for people to join.

AfCFTA means Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. The agreement was called the continental free trade agreement and when the agreement was accepted and signed by heads of state, it then became Africa Continental Trade Area. Area because it has come to stay.

2.   What is AfCFTA really about?

AfCFTA is basically a single market agreement. Our Pan African forefathers had a dream to have one single market for Africa and this has gone through several stages but in recent times, the Abuja treaty, South Africa and Kigali have realized the need for a broader plan called the agenda 2063 of the African Union which will mark the 100th anniversary of its existence. So a list of flagship programs has been put in place to commemorate this celebration. Among these programs are; having one single African market, one currency, one custom area, one passport, and many more. 54 countries have signed to trade among themselves where 90% tariffs would be taken off some listed products. I must say it hasn't been easy to liberalize trade in Africa because some countries' main revenue is from tariffs. All is not set and done after this.

So after signing, these countries have to move to the next stage called ratification. This is where the country undertaking this bond takes the decision of its citizens into consideration because most countries under AfCFTA are democratic states. After this, the letters of ratification or letters of instruments must be submitted to the AUC. After this is done then a country can be a member of AfCFTA and enjoy the benefits. 30 countries have now been able to submit these letters of ratification. A country can only redraw from the membership after 5 years.

3.   How are the youth been involved in AfCFTA?

One advantage of AfCFTA is that it offers employment opportunities for member countries. AfCFTA encourages investments, intellectual property rights, and startups and these member countries have been tasked to develop strategic flagship programs to implement the AfCFTA policy and Ghana has taken 7 key areas to develop. That is trade policy, trade finance, and many more. There are branches under these areas as well with the aim of boosting trade and employment. The whole idea behind this is to encourage people to own businesses and make the youth self-reliant. A typical example is the export and import bank in Ghana who has identified key areas to support youths in the agricultural sector and many more by encouraging people to send proposals in order to join their year to year programs.

The biggest import and export bank is also ready to support the implementation of the AfCFTA by offering and supporting startups proposals who meet their requirements in order to boost export. As long as your country has been ratified, the youth can equally enjoy the benefits of joining AfCFTA.

4.   How can data scientist position themselves to take advantage of this opportunity since data science is new in Ghana?

Honestly, I wouldn't say data science is new. The problem is data science has not been given serious recognition. Everything we do now is data-driven and data science is the second most valuable career because it pulls almost 1 -2 trillion dollars annually. There's a lot of opportunities for data scientist because it produces artificial intelligence, techs, and all the statistics. Under Continental Free Trade, which is in the trade-in service area, we have insurance, communication, and financial services and you can imagine the need for a data scientist in these areas. So data scientists have opportunities in every sector. Data scientists and engineers have put together a system called the Pan African payment system which is similar to MasterCard and visa. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain are also areas for data scientist so data scientists have a major advantage in AfCFTA.

5.   A major challenge for data scientists is access to data.Is AfCFTA  going to give out data if required by a data scientist?

Business can't be done in the dark so hiding information won't make your business successful. Ghana as n example is building trade information where information on people is digital and people can tap information about business, agencies, setups, and others. Data is going to be available for data scientists because without data an organization can't be successful. My advice is that data scientists should form associations and groups so that their voices can be heard and also win contracts from international bodies as well.

Blossom Academy is a technology talent development company that recruits and develops African data science talent, with the goal of connecting them with job opportunities. To learn more, kindly visit our website at www.blossomacademy.co

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