By Asmau Ahmad
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has begun consultation with African micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) on the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) using digital platforms.
According to a statement from the Communications Section of the ECA on Friday, the consultation was with business management consultant AUNIQUEI, with funding from the European Union (EU).
Business leaders and experts from across Africa participated in a three-day event, which started on Wednesday, to gain insight into the challenges the agreement posed to small and medium businesses.
In her opening speech, Director, African Institute for Development and Economic Planning (IDEP), Ms. Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, said the gathering was intended to see how participants could boost the agreement’s implementation.
“The meeting will offer the opportunity for MSMEs to reap the benefits of some of the work ECA is doing on MSME digitalisation and a digital application it is developing to help monitor and correct remarks capable of negatively impacting AfCFTA implementation,” Soltane said.
The director added that the MSMEs should play their part alongside the public sector if the AfCFTA was to succeed.
The director further said Africa was making efforts to ensure the success of the agreement adding that when implemented, it would take Africa’s gross domestic product to $3.4 trillion.
Similarly, ECA’s Senior Regional Adviser, Mr Adeyinka Adeyemi, said the forum’s objective was to seek to build a network of African MSMEs as well as to learn what the AfCFTA meant to the enterprises and to help them make money.
“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,” Adeyemi highlighted.
Event facilitator and Chief Executive Officer of AUNIQUEI, Bunmi Makinwa said the bottom line for the agreement was to ensure free movement of goods and services, enhance business interaction, and the prosperity of the continent.
Topics discussed were challenges of AfCFTA implementation, successes and factors that facilitate solutions; and AfCFTA implementation in countries, regions and in the business sectors.
Others were political, economic and financial reforms on reducing the costs of trading; and logistics, infrastructure, and non-tariff measures to improve the investment and business climate.
Participants included representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Federation of West African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI), and women traders’ groups from across the continent.
The consultation is part of a more extensive project aimed at deepening Africa’s trade integration through the effective implementation of the AfCFTA.
ECA has also 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.
The AfCFTA which commenced operations on Jan. 1 is set to create the biggest free trade area in the world with a market of more than 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2.5 trillion.