Information. Connections. Partnerships

Information. Connections. Partnerships

Florence Tomazia-Cossou Shares her AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative (GTI) Experience

In 2019, Florence Tomazia-Cossou founded Mazia Co Enterprise, a Ghana based agro-processing business that trades in honey, tea, and dried fruit, serving the local market in her home country and beyond. A year later, as talk around the AfCFTA gained momentum, she learnt about some of the benefits that came with the agreement. However, it was not until she met a Cameroonian business owner on a trade mission in Gabon and exchanged partnership ideas, that the potential of the agreement began to seem feasible to her as an entrepreneur.

The GTI under which Ghana is listed as one of the pilot countries has been a game changer for Florence who has traded in Cameroon, Kenya, and Rwanda, under the initiative.

First, a certificate of origin

Since the launch of Mazia Co Enterprise, the business has dabbled in imports and exports and can attest to the marked difference with trading as an entrepreneur under the GTI. Florence successfully acquired her certificate of origin with minimal challenges, thanks to the readily available information on the process in Ghana.

“I needed to get the certificate through the Ministry of Trade, Chamber and Commerce and the AfCFTA National Coordination body in Ghana. So they supported me to get a certificate of origin.”

Possessing a certificate of origin came with significant benefits for Florence as a Small to Medium Size enterprise owner. For one, being able to ship goods from Ghana to Kenya at a 40% discounted rate on tariffs as opposed to paying 100% duty, a trade off that allows Florence to price her products competitively.

“I was in Kenya in May 2023 and I took my products from Ghana with me. All the consumers who bought the products compared the price of my product with the price in the market and told me that my product is not expensive. So you can imagine if you have to pay the full duty, that means the product will be more expensive in the market and I cannot have a competitive advantage.”

Connecting with Agro-processing entrepreneurs and buyers across Africa

Florence’s first shipment under the GTI consisted of goods imported from Cameroon to Ghana in 2022, and she celebrated the milestone on her social media platforms including LinkedIn, to allow other African entrepreneurs access to her importing journey.

The move had a snowball effect that saw her receive calls from women in the agri-business sector in Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.

“I got over 2000 views on a post, information circulates fast whenever you post something on social media. To me, social media is really key in my business because we do not have a physical office anywhere.”

“I was available to give them answers and to push them to also come on board and take advantage of it. What was really good is the fact that people were ready, like the women entrepreneurs, the women in agribusiness, they are ready to trade under the AfCFTA. Recently, a lady from Ghana called me when she came across an interview I did and said she wants to trade in Angola under the GTI.”

Coping with risks and uncertainties

The process of trading under the GTI has not been without its challenges for Florence’s business. Notably, in terms of harmonisation and certification of standards, a necessary step for those operating in the food industry. 

“When you have your certificate of origin in Ghana, you comply with standards in Ghana, and when you take it to Kenya, you have to adapt by the Kenya Food and Drug department, so these are the challenges we face, but we have to overcome them and tell the policy makers what we want. I was in Cape Town, South Africa in April 2023, and one of the panel discussions touched on regulating businesses and standardisation and I spoke about this with the policymakers. If we put in the work, we will make it and yes, challenges will come, but it’s about how you position yourself that helps you overcome the challenges.”

Looking to the future: Reflections on how the GTI can be more inclusive and sustainable for businesses

While the GTI has generally had a positive impact on Florence’s entrepreneurial pursuits,  she feels that it would be beneficial to get as many people on board as possible. 

“We need more entrepreneurs on board, we need more people on board, we need trainings, capacity building for the entrepreneurs, women in trade, youths, for them to get access to information, for them to be export ready, so that we can really take advantage of it, you also need the harmonisation of the certification, the trade barriers. So my feedback is that what we can do more.”

“I’m seeing my company in the next five years under the Guided Trade Initiative being able to import and export products from all the countries that are signatories to the Agreement.”

“I was in South Africa and they are not operating under the first phase of the  GTI but It didn’t stop me from talking about my company, sharing my ideas and getting leads.”

“I believe in the next five years our business will expand to at least 20 to 30 countries in Africa.”

Final thoughts on the initiative

“For me, it’s a great opportunity for Africans to test the system to see how this is going to work.”