Enabling over 5,000 African businesses to trade in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area
ITC’s partnership with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) supports innovative, green finance solutions, strengthens Africa’s creative economy through tailored trainings – with 5,000 small businesses skilled so far – and promotes African business opportunities within the Caribbean region.
ITC recognizes that ‘Partnerships4Purpose’ can contribute to impactful projects and sustainable outcomes. To celebrate the teamwork behind these efforts, ITC is proud to highlight game-changing initiatives that are made possible through strong and meaningful collaboration.
When the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) came into force on 30 May 2019, Africa committed to expanding its business opportunities, streamlining its continental approach for trade regulation, and ensuring the free movement of goods and services.
The AfCFTA is one of the flagship initiatives of the African Union to achieve its Agenda 2063. The agreement connects 1.3 billion people across 55 African countries with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion, and provides an opportunity for industrialization, job creation, industry innovation and economic growth.
The unique approach: Tailoring trainings to boost intra-African export potential
Recent developments in the global economy present African businesses with several challenges that ITC describes as the four Cs – COVID-19, climate change, conflict, and costs. The AfCFTA offers an opportunity for businesses to adjust and bounce back from these challenges, provided the right mechanisms are in place for support.
In its continued commitment to further intra-African export potential, Afreximbank has teamed up with ITC to support small businesses, especially women and youth entrepreneurs, to make the most of the Free Trade Area.
Through its SME Trade Academy, ITC and Afreximbank developed an e-learning course on How to Export with the AfCFTA. The training provides business owners with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively engage in cross-border trade and secure international business opportunities.
The impact: Improved access to African trade opportunities for marginalized groups
The pilot ran in Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Rwanda in 2020 and was then extended to include Ghana, Morocco and Zimbabwe. One week after its launch, the programme received almost 1,500 applications. It supports businesses at country level to trade continentally using a dual approach: it includes a free online component on the Afreximbank Academy, while ITC facilitates in-country workshops to train business owners, business support organizations and government stakeholders.
Through the trainings, entrepreneurs can easily find tailored market opportunities for their businesses, identifying the highest export potential for their products and how to capitalize on potential financing opportunities. The trainees also have access to trade financing and trade facilitation interventions offered by Afreximbank to support intra-African trade. Over 5,000 small businesses have been trained so far. Next to English and French, the training will soon be available in Arabic and Portuguese as well.
Moving forward: A vibrant African private sector
Afreximbank and ITC are currently broadening their partnership and will soon sign an MoU to expand and diversify trade in Africa:
- The ‘How to Export with the AfCFTA’ online training will be expanded to all 55 Member States of the African Union, include additional modules and will roll out in-person skills and knowledge-building national workshops in at least 12 additional countries in Africa.
- The agreement will also establish a continental collaborative group to pave the way for African designers and artists to engage in the continent’s vibrant creative economy.
- To secure investment opportunities for African businesses, the partnership will support the Pan African Private Sector, Trade and Investment Committee (PAFTRAC).
- The new partnership will also push for African businesses to pursue opportunities beyond their regional markets and consider international export opportunities in the Caribbean.
- With the increasing need for businesses to adopt sustainable approaches due to climate change, the partnership will promote the uptake of relevant and innovative green solutions at global events, including COP27 in November 2022.
Through its partnership with Afreximbank, ITC continues to broaden its commitment to equip African women and youth-led businesses, maximizing the benefits of the AfCFTA agreement and thus trade across Africa.