Addis Ababa – The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) provides a critical opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), including youth-led and cross-border businesses, to participate in the development of local value chains , more easily meet the standards of continental markets, and provide input to larger businesses in their regions, with targeted support.
This was stated on Thursday by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)’s Director of Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Jean-Paul Adam, during a virtual youth union for leadership and development in Africa summit organized in partnership with the International Trade Center ( ITC) and the AfCFTA Secretariat.
Mr. Adam said that in Africa, 60 percent of men and 75 percent of women were informally employed, including educated youth.
“If we go beyond this informality, it means that you do things differently. It is about empowering Afrikaans citizens, and as part of this direction, ECA supports the implementation of digital identity projects across our continent. Through a common framework for digital to create identity, we improve inclusion in terms of access to social protection and also in terms of financial inclusion, ”he said.
Digital identities are one of the building blocks of digital commerce. It also creates new opportunities for small business creation and to support SMEs at different points in development. They also allow better support for businesses and start-ups, he added.
“We need to further leverage Africa’s digital infrastructure to take advantage of these opportunities through the AfCFTA. Although the gap is significant, we learn that past experiences with scaling up mobile penetration can teach us that there can be rapid progress if there is focus. on the right regulatory environment, together with empowerment of the private sector to invest, “said Mr. Adam told the young African leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators who attended the summit.
He said the AfCFTA promise would be delivered by the continent’s success in mobilizing the power of its young people.
E-commerce originated during the COVID-19 exclusions as a trading facilitator and multiplier.
The ECA is proud to have played a key role in sowing the seeds for the successful launch and use of the African Medical Supplies Platform that has linked the sourcing of medical needs with production and supply across the continent and beyond, said Mr. Adam said.
Based on this experience, the ECA continues to work with partners such as Afreximbank to improve the frameworks for African entrepreneurs to take advantage of e-commerce opportunities across our continent.
“New innovative solutions that provide credit for e-commerce, including fintech solutions, can address these challenges of access to finance. For example, coaching and crowdfunding have been observed to fund e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the ECA said. director said. .
He added: ‘The reality of trade on our continent today is that divergent rules across the 107 land borders between our 54 countries create a complex network of obstacles for emerging entrepreneurs. The multiplicity of regulatory standards, competition, intellectual property investment and services hamper our ability to be efficient and competitive. ‘
The AfCFTA consolidates a market of 1.3 billion people to a market value of $ 2.3 billion.
Chad’s Minister of Youth and Sport Routouang Mohamed Ndongaa, in turn, emphasized that young people within the AFCTA framework are free to explore their talent and access to other regions in Africa.
The protocol of the agreement on the free movement of people could address skills shortages and enable individuals to live and work where their talents are best rewarded, he said.
Aissatou Diallo, local Portifolio manager at ITC, said; “It’s time for the youth to use our brand to earn a living for a better standard of living through our projects than to wait for work given by hand.”
Mr Kitcher spoke on behalf of Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA; “It’s time to help young people with cross-border trade. The AfCFTA will help young people by creating a tariff-free continent.” He encouraged the youth of all regions of Africa to get involved in the AfCFTA revolution.
Anna Ekeledo, executive director of AfriLabs, emphasized that broadband connections should be seen as an essential service on the continent.
“This should be seen as a benefit and that policies should address the approaches to the growing challenges of ensuring inclusive access as they approach digital investment in infrastructure,” she said.
The virtual summit was held under the theme; “Beyond COVID-19 – The use of the AfCFTA to spur Africa’s growth”.