Minister of Communications and Digitalization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful says the AfCFTA Hub, an integrated and comprehensive digital platform designed to drive trade in Africa will benefit players in the telecoms and ICT industry by stemming digital payment fraud to a very large extent.
Speaking at the launch of the AfCFTA Hub and Stakeholder Forum, the Minister said “The telecom industry, in particular, should benefit from the related policy of deploying the AfCFTA Hub as a common fraud reporting node and blacklist database harmoniser because of its regional element. Without regional solutions, criminals will exploit the gaps among countries to evade apprehension.”
The Minister therefore strongly urged the National Communications Authority (NCA), the Ghana Chamber of Telecoms (GCT), the Ghana Internet Service Providers Association (GISPA) and related bodies to speed up the rollout of the AfCFTA Hub across all telecom networks as a common anti-fraud engine, business directory service and AfCFTA Implementation Accelerator.
According to her, that should make it more difficult for fraudsters to use online sales and mobile money payments for online transactions as a means to defraud the unsuspecting public as more trade moves online.
The AfCFTA Hub is the one single digital regulatory platform that integrates all levels of businesses in Africa – banks, fintechs, telcos, ecommerce platforms, small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), developers and even individuals who have been audited, approved and been provided with AfCFTA Numbers to do business on the platform.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful noted that the AfCFTA Number, which can be obtained on www.afcfta.app is very critical to the success of the AfCFTA Hub as a trusted regulatory platform.
She explained that the AfCFTA Number is a unique ID that differentiates every business from the other and also stands as proof that a business or person can do business across borders and can be trusted.
According to her, any entity that has an AfCFTA Number from one country does not have to register their business in another country before they can do business there and receive payments, because the AfCFTA Number is recognised across borders and gives the wielder access into all other markets across the continent.
Speaking of trust, Minister also urged all ecommerce and digital service platforms like Amazon, Tonaton, Glovo, Uber, Bolt, Jumia and others to ensure that the merchants and individual registered and doing business on their platforms get AfCFTA Numbers and use the platform to receive payments digitally, instead of doing cash-on-delivery.
She observed that lots of merchants in Ghana now do “cash-on-delivery” because there have been times when people paid for items online and the items never reached them because the merchants bolted with the money and could not be traced.
The Minister believes that AfCFTA Hub is well designed to solve that problem of trust, particularly with the use of the AfCFA Number, when it is linked to the Ghana Card details of the merchant.
Start-Ups and Youth Employment
“The AfCFTA Number also providers start-ups on the AfCFTA Hub the opportunity of visibility to government and others financiers, and once their progress and needs are visible they are more likely to easily get financial and technical support to grow,” she said.
The Minister believes that the AfCFTA Hub is going to deal with youth unemployment to the very large extent because young people with innovative ideas can join the Hub after going to the AfCFTA Secretariat’s audit process and they can get support to rollout their ideas and scale across the continent.
Indeed, the Deputy Minister of Trade, Herbert Krapah pointed out that Ghana is churning out about 250,000 young people ready for the job market, but government cannot employ all of those young people.
He believes the AfCFTA Hub provides a great opportunity for a lot of “these young people to be creative and even create jobs for their fellows.”
National AfCFTA Coordinator, Dr. Fareed Arthur said so far the AfCFTA Secretariat in Ghana has audited about 230 applicants and 110 have been cleared to trade across the continent, so, for him, “this is a very good time for the AfCFTA Hub to be launched because it creates the one-stop-shop digital platform for a smooth take off for all those businesses.”
Executive Secretary to the Vice President, Augustine Blay noted that the strong platform economy has since some success stories in Africa including making songs like Jerusalema, Buga and the One-Lege dance go viral.
He believes the focus of the AfCFTA Hub will be more towards that platform economy where average Africans play, rather than focusing on high-end business, and create the opportunity for the people and business on the continent to meet and move the continent forward.
“AfCFTA is intended to bring all 1.2 billion Africans together and can only be done by take full advantage of the existing platform economy that is already thriving on the continent,” he said.
Advisor to the AfCFTA Secretary-General, Grace Koza noted that Covid-19 has shown that digitization can help Africa leapfrog its trade barriers and even do better than other continents, but it is important that digitization engenders a regulatory framework that ensure ease of trade across the continent, and that is what the AfCFTA Hub is all about.
She believes that the AfCFTA Hub will bridge the gap between big business, SMEs and start-ups in way that ensure that “we grow together”.
Key collaborators on the AfCFTA Hub include Ecobank Ghana, MTN, AfroChampions and of course the AfCFTA Secretariat, all led by the Ministry of Communications and Digitalization.