EPA To Worsen Unemployment In Weaker Economies

An industrialist and Vice President of the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regional Branches of the Association of Ghana Industries, (AGI), William Awuku Aheadomeh, says Ghana and other African countries risk worsening their unemployment situations if they sign the full pact of the Economic Partnership Agreements which is currently being debated by the ECOWAS council of ministers in Ivory Coast. Ghana’s Foreign Minister, Hannah Tetteh is representing Ghana alongside Foreign Ministers of the other West African countries attending the confab. If the pact sees its way through, hundred percent products from Ghana and other West African countries would be allowed into the European Market while the European Union allowed eighty percent access to the West African market progressively tax free. Ghana in 2007 signed the interim EPA to have continuous access to the EU market. Indications are that Ghana and other ECOWAS members are considering signing the full pact with the European Union. However, several civil society groups and individuals are opposed to the pact and have likened any move to go the full haul of the multilateral agreement to a blatant betrayal and barefaced sale of our economic birthright and freedom to Europe. The Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Christian Council of Ghana, the Ghana Chamber of Commerce, the Third World Network, the Socialist Forum, and the Economic Justice Network of Ghana are among some of the harshest critics of the proposed agreement. The AGI’s Awuku Aheadomeh is also one such critic who argues that “any President who signs the agreement should know that in the next foreseeable future, our job losses will be higher and unemployment rate will be even much higher. He warns that it will be “high enough to force that government out of office”. Speaking on the Ultimate Morning Show, he strongly advised West African governments not to be deceived by the short term privileges that the agreement presents as it stands to lose out massively in the not too distant future. Buttressing his point, Mr. Awuku Aheadomeh explained that “the hundred percent of goods that the EU is allowing from West Africa is never to be seen as a favor done Ghana. Europe buys from Africa and other ACP countries only when they need something they cannot get from anywhere else. They have no choice and they are not doing us any favor because even the cocoa they choose to buy, they do so because they cannot get any of the same quality anywhere else,” he emphasized. He further contends that for a country that is largely suffering from unemployment problems caused mainly by a low level of manufacturing and export, any attempt to sign the agreement will be a threat to the several infant businesses in the country. In his view, the agreement will stifle the growth of industries in poor African countries since products from the EU would be patronized to the detriment of local products. “What about the many infant industries in the country which virtually do table top manufacturing? Most of our companies here will fold up whether they like it or not.” He cautioned “the unemployment will hit our streets and no military can stop it and in the process, civil rights and election procedures will force governments out of office across Ghana and West Africa”. But the Head of Political Science Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Dr. Richard Amoako Baah, holds a contrary view. He thinks the pact presents an opportunity for Ghana to improve on its performance to compete with the world. He believes several Ghanaians have taken an extremist position on the issue without reading between the lines to see the benefits that accrue to Africa. He noted that several companies in Africa are already doing brisk business with European countries and have endeavored to meet all standards required of their markets. According to Dr. Baah, Ghana cannot choose to remain in isolation just because it is unable to measure up to international views and standards. He says rather than oppose the deal, the country should look at seeking help from the advanced countries to assist it develop its manufacturing sector to compete with players in the European market. Ghana and Ivory Coast are the only countries in the sub-region that have signed the interim EPA.