Africa wants to grow trade within the continent. Here’s how

1 December 2023
ITC News

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is making trade easier. The Intra-African Trade Fair in Cairo gave businesses a platform to take advantage of these new opportunities. Activities by the International Trade Centre (ITC) underscored how small businesses can drive trade and development. 

The fair is the premier trade show on the continent, created to promote the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA. ITC brought 24 African entrepreneurs from nine countries to showcase their offerings in agriculture, textiles and clothing, and a variety of services. 

Another 102 businesses at the fair completed the AfCFTA Export Readiness Masterclass, run by the One Trade Africa and SME Trade Academy at ITC in collaboration with Afreximbank. The masterclass worked specifically with women and youth entrepreneurs.


29 November 2023

ITC and the Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) used the fair to launch a second phase of SheTrades Egypt. Some 70 women-led agribusinesses and another 13 handicraft businesses will receive two years of support to boost their competitiveness. 

They will also work with business support organisations in Benin, Cameroon, Senegal, and Togo to roll out training on how to export with the AfCFTA. 

ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton stressed that women and youth drive economic growth and prosperity. Making trade more inclusive will unleash the full potential of the AfCFTA to deliver on the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

She also pointed to the potential of trade with the African diaspora. 

ITC and Afreximbank have joined forces to foster exports through the AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum. A 2022 ITC report found that the two regions have $1 billion in export potential. 

‘We must take this momentum and use it to craft a new approach to trade and trade policy—one that is informed by equity and justice. An approach that builds on our shared history, our cultures, and our values,’ Coke-Hamilton said. 

Growing trade requires good data, which ITC provides through the African Trade Observatory. This online tool provides real-time data crucial for informing business and policy decisions. The tool monitors AfCFTA implementation and assesses its impact at national, regional, and continental levels. 

‘We cannot improve what we cannot measure,’ said ITC Director of Market Development Division, Mondher Mimouni at a high-level dialogue with the African Union Commission and the European Union to discuss progress made and a roadmap for the African Trade Observatory.  

Among other highlights: 

  • Three chocolate makers, who came to Cairo with ITC support, made a study tour to learn about the Egyptian market. 

  • Four farm coops with WACOMP Senegal learned how Egypt grows, processes and trades in fruit and vegetables through a study tour with a local expert. 

  • Four business from Burkina, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Togo were brought under WACOMP Regional and WACOMP Sierra Leone, showcasing from Textile, ICT to Cocoa and Mango produces. 

  • Workshops looked at agri-tech and market access, with contributions from the NTFV project and ITC Trade and Market Intelligence

  • A panel discussion with the Africa Business Council and Afreximbank called for advancing continental trade through education. 

  • A sneak peek at the Pan-African Fashion Alliance, created by ITC and Afreximbank, to smooth financing flows for African fashion designers. 

  • Side events on regulatory frameworks, standards, and empowerment of the African creative industry. 

About the projects:  

The West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP) is financed by the European Union under the 11th European Development Fund. The programme aims to strengthen the competitiveness of West African countries and enhance their integration into the regional and international trading system. Under WACOMP, ITC works in cooperation with UNIDO and under the overall guidance of the ECOWAS Commission. The overall objective of the programme is 'to strengthen the competitiveness of West Africa through an enhanced level of production, transformation and export capacities of the private sector in line with regional and national industrial and MSME strategies'. The project is implemented by the International Trade Centre. 

The One Trade Africa (OTA) initiative, supports the accelerated implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). OTA, led by the International Trade Centre (ITC), is committed to empowering MSMEs, women, and youth to harness opportunities in this unified market. It offers comprehensive technical assistance, enhancing enterprise capabilities to explore export opportunities within Africa and globally. 

The Netherlands Trust Fund V (NTF V) (July 2021 – June 2025) is based on a partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and the International Trade Centre. The programme supports MSMEs in the digital technologies and agribusiness sectors. Its ambition is two-fold: to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable transformation of food systems, partially through digital solutions, and drive the internationalization of tech start-ups and export of IT&BPO companies in selected Sub-Saharan African countries.