Young entrepreneurs set to lead the African Free Trade Area

23 agosto 2023
ITC News

The African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat teams up with the International Trade Centre, the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) and the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International to engage and empower Africa’s youth to trade and do business in Africa.

The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the International Trade Centre (ITC), YALDA Zambia and CUTS International Lusaka jointly organized a practical training workshop on “The Imperative of Youth in Trade: Learning, Leveraging and Leading the AfCFTA” during the AfCFTA’s inaugural Youth Symposium.

Under the theme “Igniting the Future for Youth in Trade”, the workshop equipped over 50 youth entrepreneurs with the skills and tools to successfully participate in intra-Africa trade.

The AfCFTA Youth Symposium is a platform for youth across Africa to have direct interactions with the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, policymakers, academia, and financial institutions. The interactions will lead to the exchange of ideas on innovation, entrepreneurship, and achieving structural transformation for an inclusive trading environment under the Free Trade Area.

Acknowledging the potential of Africa’s thriving, young population, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, H.E. Wamkele Mene stated, "we acknowledge that the youth are at the heart of trade on the continent, hence, their importance to the AfCFTA cannot be overstated. It was therefore critical to provide a platform of engagement for the exchange of ideas on innovation, entrepreneurship, and achieving structural transformation that creates an enabling environment for inclusive trading under the AfCFTA regime."

During the opening session, ITC AfCFTA Liaison Advisor, Regina Hammond highlighted how young entrepreneurs act as drivers and catalysts of socio-economic transformation and urged that inclusive trade be the norm. She also outlined the goals of ITC’s One Trade Africa programme, which seeks to empower African small businesses to access the AfCFTA’s transformative market opportunities. Africa is home to the largest youth population, with around 60% of Africa’s population being under the age of 25. This vibrant demography plays a catalytic role in shaping Africa’s development agenda.

The workshop participants were introduced to ITC’s online How to Export with the AfCFTA training programme, one of the One Trade Africa Programme’s tools, supported by Afreximbank. They also received the AfCFTA Glossary developed by the AfCFTA Secretariat and ITC which unpacks the Agreement in relatable business language.

CUTS International Lusaka explained the importance of complying with origin rules to access AfCFTA preferences. The shared AfCFTA Rules of Origin Manual spells out the application, procedures and institutional framework for these rules. Sajeev Nair, Director at CUTS International Lusaka, underlined the need for youth entrepreneurs and the private sector players who are either in producing goods or exporting or importing goods from other AfCFTA member countries to familiarize with the rules, procedures and also benefits that Rules origin certification system would bring in interns of customs duty benefits and price advantage.”

YALDA Zambia Executive Director, Abinaidah Chaseba, expressed enthusiasm about the level of engagement from youth, and stressed the need for more workshops at the local level.

ITC Ye! Kenya Advisor to ITC for Kenya, Eliud Luutsa said "the ITC training was a big eye-opener and exposed me to the wider trade possibilities and opportunities that the AfCFTA agreement presents to me as a young entrepreneur as well as the trade barriers that have been removed by the agreement. I feel confident and ready to scale my business operations to other African countries."


The AfCFTA Youth Symposium

The AfCFTA Youth Symposium is a timely response to gather, sensitize and equip Africa’s youth in realizing their potential through the AfCFTA Agreement. The event is being held in the context of the finalization process of the Protocol on Women and Youth which recognizes the importance of youth as key drivers of trade and development in Africa and seeks to address the challenges they face in accessing the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA.

The three-day event featured several youth-driven side events. For instance, during “TechConneXt: Empowering Tech Startups in the AfCFTA” led by the Independent Continental Youth Advisory Council on the AfCFTA (ICOYACA), Dan Chileshe, ITC Switch ON Lead, guided tech startups on how to tap into African market opportunities and connect to incubators, accelerators, venture capitalist and angel investors.