JAMIITRADE Empowering Youth and SMEs

Estimated read time 3 min read

JAMIITRADE is at the forefront of championing information sharing, education, and enhanced
understanding of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) among local businesses.
In today’s global business landscape, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) hold significant
sway. In both developed and developing nations, they comprise nearly 90% of all companies. African
SMEs are particularly pivotal, driving roughly 50% of the continent’s GDP, employing 60% of the
workforce, and accounting for an unmatched 24.8% of youth employment worldwide. The potential
for cross-border trade presents substantial opportunities for growth and sustainability. However, the
lack of centralised, relevant, and easily accessible information remains a major hurdle for businesses
aiming to engage with the benefits the AfCFTA can bring.

It’s widely acknowledged that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with the launch of
AfCFTA, a pivotal initiative for deeper economic integration within Africa. This initiative has exposed
critical challenges hindering the growth of youth-led businesses, including knowledge gaps in the
workforce. These gaps, characterised by a lack of essential skills, expertise, or information, impede
productivity, innovation, and overall organizational success. Despite the pandemic’s disruption,
AfCFTA stands as a potent tool for expediting economic recovery. Its vast potential for income
generation, job creation, and poverty reduction remains intact.

During the 2021 Africa Shared Value Leadership Summit, the Shared Value African Initiative (SVAI)
organised a fireside chat featuring key figures in AfCFTA’s journey. Dr. Towela Nyirenda-Jere, Head of
Economic Integration Division at the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), and Kebour
Ghenna, Executive Director of PACCI (Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry), engaged in a
substantive discussion facilitated by Fifi Peters, Financial Journalist at CNBC Africa.
Dr. Nyirenda-Jere underscored AfCFTA Secretariat’s pivotal initiatives to propel the trade agenda
forward. These include resolving issues related to non-tariff barriers, establishing a trade
observatory to connect entrepreneurs and Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with vital
trade information, and introducing an online monitoring system enabling stakeholders to report
cross-border trade challenges. Additionally, Afreximbank, in partnership with the AfCFTA Secretariat,
has introduced a payment settlement system, aimed at supporting cross-border e-commerce and
addressing constraints faced by MSMEs.

While there remain significant challenges in regional economic integration, such as transport and
communication issues, substantial efforts are underway to mitigate these barriers.

Infrastructure development is a cornerstone of AfCFTA, with long-term projects spanning from 2021
to 2030, requiring a total capex of approximately US$160 billion. Private sector funds are crucial for
the success of these projects. Collaborative efforts between governments and financial institutions
are essential to de-risk cross-border infrastructure projects, making them attractive for private
sector investment.

Attention is also drawn to the “last-mile” challenges, including infrastructure, connectivity, and
access to services at borders. This necessitates addressing localized infrastructure issues and
establishing strong connections between regional and national infrastructure.

To stimulate productive capacity and reduce Africa’s over-reliance on imports, creating regional and
continental value chains is vital. This transformation will require a shift in paradigm towards
domestic production of basic consumer goods.

Dr. Nyirenda-Jere stressed the importance of prioritizing the capacity building and nurturing of
MSMEs and informal traders to seize the opportunities offered by AfCFTA.

In conclusion, a call to action emphasizes the imperative for governments to align regional and
national imperatives with the development priorities of each country. Businesses, too, have a pivotal
role to play in finding practical solutions to on-ground issues and contributing to the growth of
domestic industries. The combined efforts of these stakeholders promise multi-dimensional benefits
for Africa, including value chain development, job creation, and inclusive industrialization.

Find / Contact – JamiiTrade – https://www.jamiitrade.africa/

Follow on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/jamiitrade/

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