Business Owners Dialogue To Reap AfCFTA Gains Using Digital Platforms

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About 50 business owners from across Africa have begun a three-day consultation in Dakar, Senegal with Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) on how to reap the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said in a statement (ECA).

Delivering her opening remarks, Ms. Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, Director of the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), said the MSME consultation was in the context of thorough research and analysis conducted by ECA to provide key and far-reaching recommendations for a sector that is the critical engine of AfCFTA implementation.

‘The meeting will offer the opportunity for MSMEs to reap the benefits of some of the work ECA is doing on MSME digitalization and a digital application it is developing to help monitor and correct remarks capable of negatively impacting AfCFTA implementation,’ the Director said.

One of the critical issues raised in the deliberations was the potency of the AfCFTA in transforming African economies, which continue to depend on the activities of MSMEs.

Mr. Adeyinka Adeyemi, Senior Advisor at the ECA, informed the meeting that the AfCFTA avails unprecedented opportunities for growth-seeking MSMEs and called on African businesses to prepare themselves to reap the benefits of AfCFTA.

‘This meeting constitutes part of the strategy of the ECA to establish a continental network and interactions amongst MSMEs to grant them access to information and understanding on the implementation process as well as the impact of the free trade agreement,’ Mr. Adeyemi highlighted.

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Key concerns centred on the imperative of transforming Africa’s weak economies, building the capacities of Africa’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs), enhancing the participation of diverse stakeholders at all levels and digitalizing their operations to be able to lead economic reforms.

Ms. Mama Keita, Director of the ECA Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa, highlighted that while the COVID-19 pandemic triggered an unprecedented economic contraction, recovery can be catalysed by the implementation of the AfCFTA.

Trading under the AfCFTA commenced on the 1st of January 2021. The AfCFTA will create an African market of more than 1.2 billion people with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$2.5 trillion, building on the progress towards integration achieved in Africa’s regional economic communities.

This consultation is part of a more extensive project aimed at deepening Africa’s trade integration through the effective implementation of the AfCFTA.

Financially supported by the European Union, ECA has been working with its partners including the African Union Commission (AUC), International Trade Centre (ITC), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and a selection of independent trade experts to ensure effective AfCFTA implementation strategies.