AfCFTA affirms SMEs to drive COVID-19 era recovery

Ship Owners and Agents Association, Ghana (SOAAG) has mobilized resources to evacuate about 200 empty containers from the state warehouse in the Port of Tema back into the custody of the various shipping lines.

The Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector has been identified as the leading edge to drive the continent’s economic recovery in the COVID-19 era, Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, has said.

Data from AfCFTA’s secretariat have indicated that over 450 million people on the continent are employed in the SMEs sector – contributing close to 60 percent of Africa’s GDP.

This, data, Mr. Mene said, is a very significant part of the continent’s economy; and so it is vital for the AfCFTA to take account of this to facilitate the participation of small enterprises in Africa’s recovery from the pandemic.

“It is very important that if we want to drive the continent’s recovery in the COVID-19 era, the SMEs sector is the most attractive in terms of inclusivity among all signatory states,” Mr. Mene told the B&FT at the launch of ‘Foresight Africa Top Priorities for the Continent in 2022’.

The event was hosted by the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) in collaboration with the Brookings Institution.

SMEs-friendly initiatives by AfCFTA to aid recovery

In the area of SMEs-development to aid in the full recovery process, AfCFTA, according to Mr. Mene, has begun processes with partners including the Afreximbank, African Development Bank (AfDB) and others to ensure the secretariat mobilises trade finance resources for SMEs and for young people.

Also, the AfCFTA will establish a digital market-place to ensure interconnectivity of all SMEs across the continent with emphasis on youth-oriented businesses. The interconnectivity is to ensure that the secretariat creates new market opportunities for young entrepreneurs.

The Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) is another initiative that is expected to aid SMEs become competitive through cost-reduction in trade, by utilising the digital platform to curb reliance on third currencies during intra-African trade.

“These are some of the concrete actions we have initiated to make sure that the AfCFTA is inclusive and places SMEs at the heart of its benefit,” Mr. Mene indicated.

Executive Vice President, African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, said it has become imperative for many African economies to diversify and ensure export competitiveness in the COVID era period.

“Our leaders must find common ground and work together for transformative change, especially when it comes to challenges that transcend borders and impact us all. Priorities such as economic progress, public health, gender equality, climate change, technology and partnerships are not just domestic issues – they are continental issues,” she said.

About the event

At the beginning of each year, the Africa Growth Initiative provides insights and policy proposals to decision-makers on key topics that are likely to impact growth and development in Africa during the year ahead. Through an annual publication and public launches, Foresight Africa seeks to draw global focus toward critical African issues through research and analysis, as well as engaging high-level participants to highlight priorities on the continent for the coming year.

ACET’s involvement and advocacy on economic transformation across Africa has highlighted several key areas essential to progress, especially as countries look to ‘build forward better’ after the COVID-19 pandemic’s ravages.

The event featured high-level experts on Africa speaking on critical items for the region’s recovery: including enhancing economic recovery, empowering women and girls, combatting climate change, and accelerating the regional integration agenda among other topics.

The Panel

The panel included Joseph Asunka, Executive Director-AfroBarometer; Priscilla Twumasi Baffour, Senior Lecturer/Economist-University of Ghana; Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, Executive Vice President-African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET); Aloysius Uche Ordu, Senior Fellow and Director, Africa Growth Initiative-Brookings Institute; Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); and Fatima Denton, Director-United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa.

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