(Kampala/Geneva), 20th September, 2022: – The International Trade Centre, UN Development Programme and UN Women, collaborated with the East African Business Council (EABC) to engage business support organisations (BSOs) in the region on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Held from 20th to 22nd September 2022, the workshop brought over 70 representatives from the region’s business ecosystem to learn about the AfCFTA and gain insight on the status of negotiations as well as the progress made on implementing the Agreement.
It also provided BSOs with a comprehensive toolkit on how best to tailor their services to drive business competitiveness under a new liberalized African market. MSMEs especially women and youth entrepreneurs will benefit when the institutions within Africa’s business ecosystems are strengthened to respond to their emerging needs and advocate for their interests.
MSMEs from other regional economic trade blocs present at the workshop aimed at fostering cross-regional networking among businesses took the opportunity showcased their products at the event.
Speaking at the opening session, Director Country Programmes ITC, Mr. Ashisha Shah said, “Women and youth are Africa’s great resource. The AfCFTA is the silver bullet into the future and One Trade Africa, ITC’s corporate programme is steadfast to unlock the USD.22 billion intra-Africa export potential and empower MSMEs, women and youth to access meaningful business opportunities under the AfCFTA.”
On behalf of UNDP, Ms. Elsie Attafuah, UNDP Uganda Resident Representative underscored the need to build the capacity of women and youth-led enterprises to trade in African goods and services – produced in Africa, by Africans, for Africans. “…women and youth engaged in cross-border trade continue to face challenges and obstacles that limit their competitiveness and make their businesses less productive,” said Ms. Elsie Attafuah.
The Resident Representative emphasized on the need to understand the needs of women and youth and equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and information as this was incredibly important to empower them to participate in intra-African trade.”
On behalf of UN Women, Adekemi Ndieli, the UN Women Deputy Country Representative said, “…we need to demystify the legal and policy context for women and youth. She said Sub-Saharan Africa and particularly Uganda has the highest number of women entrepreneurs in the world.” She further called for more inclusive participation of women and youth in policy negotiations, ease access to finance, uptake of information technology for women traders, and take deliberate actions such as capacity building for SMEs on international and regional trade requirements and empowering women-owned firms to invest in trade opportunities under the AfCFTA.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Director of the East African Business Council (EABC) Mr. John Kalisa emphasized on the need to improve the calibre of East African businesses in preparation for greater competition brought about by the AfCFTA and to boost productivity in the region. Mr. Kalisa stated the AfCFTA offers a market of 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of USD.3.4 trillion and its implementation will lift 100 million Africans out of poverty. He additionally indicated that the AfCFTA will not work if we ignore the role of women and youth and called for the finalization of the AfCFTA protocol on worm and Youth. He expounded that information asymmetry, enforcement of contracts, impatient capital, and foreign exchange losses are among the challenges facing women and youth engaged in cross-border trade in the EAC bloc and Africa.
In Africa, BSOs play a crucial role in supporting small businesses particularly women and young entrepreneurs to trade and capitalize on opportunities available through the AfCFTA. The Kampala workshop sets the first of these workshops in motion where UN Agencies will collaborate and engage regional and national stakeholders to support MSMEs to take advantage of the AfCFTA.
About ITC and One Trade Africa – The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC’s One Trade Africa programme sets out to enable, empower and enhance African MSMEs, women and youth entrepreneurs to access new transformative business opportunities created by the AfCFTA. The programme embraces a three-pronged delivery model which supports African MSMEs to Compete, Connect and Change at the enterprise, business ecosystem and policy levels. ITC provides African MSMEs with training, advice and coaching to build capacities, connect to new and more lucrative markets and create jobs.
About UNDP’s support to an inclusive implementation of the AfCFTA: The United Nations Development Programme partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in nearly 170 countries and territories, UNDP offers global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa contributes to the realization of an inclusive AfCFTA in the areas of (i) strengthening competitiveness of African MSMEs, especially those led by women and youth while (ii) enhancing the capacity of national and regional institutions to create the enabling environment conducive to the realization of an AfCFTA that benefits all.
UN Women is the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. UN Women is the global champion for gender equality, working to develop and uphold standards and create an environment in which every woman and girl can exercise her human rights and live up to her full potential. It also supports the business ecosystem empowering women in Uganda to favourably compete in business for instance the Women Economic Empowerment Bugiri Project which has empowered thousands of women to engage in profitable fish farming.