African enterprises set to expand business engagements through continental trade agreement
(Cape Town/South Africa) – Forty women and youth-owned businesses are attending a three-day masterclass series to equip them with the skills, information and networks needed to expand their business prospects across the continent through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Running through 15 April, this is the final chapter of the Masterclass Series training programme, organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in close collaboration with the AfCFTA Secretariat, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT), and the Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) through the Africa Women and Youth Empowerment Working Group (AWYEG).
The three-day Export and Investment Readiness Under AfCFTA immersion programme aims to assist a pipeline of viable and sustainable women and youth-owned businesses to tap into the market of 1.3 billion people. It’s taking place ahead of the AfCFTA Business Forum in Cape Town. The Forum is the Secretariat’s flagship event to provide the African private sector with a platform to engage and increase continental trade.
African business owners are critical drivers of the Agreement. Ensuring their inclusion in the implementation of the AfCFTA is essential to its success. The masterclass equips women and youth entrepreneurs to attract tailored finance, investment, and business linkages to meet the scale and standards of the continental market. Special focus goes to taking advantage of the AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative, in which eight countries are fast-tracking trade under the Agreement.
“Access to investment and trade finance is a critical lever for empowering women- and youth-led businesses to seize new opportunities in exports, business, and regional value chains created through the AfCFTA,” said Mie Joergensen, Junior Professional Officer, UNECA.
“ECA's session on Investment Readiness Under the AfCFTA is therefore focused on enhancing the capacity of women- and youth-led businesses in designing compelling business cases for investment,” Joergensen said. “This will enable them to scale and meet the standards of the African market, while also creating business linkages that facilitate their participation in continental supply and value chains.”
ITC provided a clear overview of opportunities presented by the AfCFTA, while the ECA showed how to attract investment and business linkages.
“ITC's corporate programme One Trade Africa is fully committed to empowering, enhancing and enabling African MSMEs, women and youth entrepreneurs to capitalize on the AfCFTA. The Agreement will not yield the desired effects without targeted and tailored trainings for Africa’s business community,” said the head of ITC’s SME Trade Academy, Shaun Lake.
ITC and Afreximbank already offer the How to Export with the AfCFTA training programme, which explains the fundamentals of intra-African trade.
“By incorporating the modules from the How to Export with the AfCFTA training programme into the Masterclass Series, we are providing African businesses with the knowledge and skills necessary to advance intra-African trade,” he said.
Equally important was the OWIT-led session on pitching to potential investors.
“OWIT's session on developing a business case and perfecting a pitch equipped participants with skills and tools to confidently take on the next steps in growing their businesses. Equally important to having a great business idea is the ability to effectively communicate it to potential investors, partners and incubators,” said OWIT President Frida Owinga.
The masterclass series was split into three parts. The first was the self-paced How to Export with the AfCFTA programme, which ran from 20 February to 10 March. Then two virtual immersion labs took place 22-23 March. The final session is now underway in Cape Town, South Africa. The masterclass series also facilitated networking among the participants with business incubators and accelerators.
In preparation for the AfCFTA Business Forum, profiles were developed for participants to facilitate matchmaking opportunities. They were compiled into a booklet to highlight the investment and export readiness of the entrepreneurs. Those featured in the booklet also received badges with QR codes linking to their businesses.
The AfCFTA Secretariat will also attend the masterclass to provide a status update on the ongoing negotiations and implementation of the Agreement.
The Secretariat and ITC will present their new AfCFTA Glossary, which unpacks the Agreement so small businesses can better understand its legal, commercial and customs terms.
Note for the Editor
The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
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About ITC’s SME Trade Academy
The SME Trade Academy is ITC’s learning solutions team. Through its flagship online platform, the Academy offers over 100 free online courses on a wide variety of trade-related topics in French, English, Spanish and Arabic, and boasts over 100,000 enrolments per year from over 190 countries. In addition, it provides a variety of turnkey learning solutions in support of ITC’s trade related technical assistance projects. These range from fully online products, such as e-learning courses, virtual learning spaces and virtual workshops, to technologically-enabled in-person trainings, such as digital and digitally-supported workshops, to everything in between.
About One Trade Africa
One Trade Africa works 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 the Commercial Law Development Program
The Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) is a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce that provides government-to-government legal framework technical assistance to improve countries' ability to meet international and bilateral trade obligations and regulations that lead to economic growth.
About the Organization of Women in International Trade
The Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) is the global umbrella organization for chapters independently established in a specific geographic region. OWIT Chapters are formed, governed, and operated at the local level. OWIT chapters host programs and events enabling their members to learn, network and forge professional relationships in their business communities.
Senior Strategic Communications Officer
International Trade Centre
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