Empowering Small Business in the African Free Trade Area

28 June 2023
ITC News

The African Union Commission collaborates with the International Trade Centre, a United Nations agency, to support African small business in operating in the African Continental Free Trade Area

The International Trade Centre (ITC) and the African Union Commission (AUC) are joining forces to propel efforts focused on integrating small businesses into Africa’s regional economy.

In celebration of the continent’s 50 million small businesses, on Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Day (MSME Day) under the theme “MSMEs Benefiting from the AfCFTA Marketplace”, policymakers, development partners, business leaders and entrepreneurs have gathered to identify concrete actions that empower small businesses to engage in regional, continental, and international trade.

The day-long event raised awareness on the positive impact small businesses have on Africa’s job creation, women’s economic empowerment, growth, and poverty reduction.

For the first time, the directors responsible for small business development across the continent came together to look at the African Union SME Strategy and the coordination of national policy frameworks to support small businesses. The directors also learned about the benefits available for African countries participating in the WTO Informal Working Group on MSMEs. Africa is home to the largest number of MSMEs globally but only four African countries are part of the multilateral agenda which seeks to promote the participation of these enterprises in international trade.

The meeting is part of a new AUC-ITC mission in cooperation with the All African Association of SMEs (AAASME) to bring together policymakers in charge of MSMEs and coordinate efforts to support small businesses in building competitiveness and participating in trade across Africa and globally.

Representatives will meet 4-8 September at the AU SME Forum in Niamey, Niger, where small businesses supported by ITC will exhibit their products and services, as well as benefit from practical, solutions-oriented mentoring and training programmes.

The events follow the recent signing of a renewed Memorandum of Understanding between the AUC and ITC. A key priority of the cooperation agreement is to furnish small businesses with an all-inclusive support platform to increase their competitivity.

“We are committed to supporting the full operationalization of the AU Enterprise Africa Network to bring MSME resources such as trainings, financial advisory and business intelligence all under a single one-stop-shop for business competitiveness,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director, International Trade Centre. “Through this platform, African business will be able to assess and connect to favourable continental value chains, including information on suppliers with potential to deliver key inputs and promising market opportunities.”

The Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism and Industry, H.E. Albert Muchanga lauded the celebration of MSME Day, emphasizing the need for a collaborative and coordinated efforts to boost MSMEs: “I call upon our Member States, Regional Economic Communities, International Organizations, Financial Institutions, and the African private sector to join hands in supporting our MSMEs. We need to break the barriers that impede their progress, including cumbersome regulations, limited access to finance, quality infrastructure issues, tariff and non-tariff barriers and market intelligence. Together, we can create an environment that unleashes the entrepreneurial spirit of our people, empowering them to compete on a global scale.”