Greening small businesses in Africa

28 September 2022
ITC News

Experts at the WTO Public Forum deliberate on greening micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to harness the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area

At a session organized by the Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) as part of the 2022 World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum on 27 September 2022, experts urged the private sector to seize opportunities brought about by the green transition in Africa.  

The panel discussion entitled “MSMEs: The Key to Realising Sustainable Gains Under the AfCFTA”, moderated by Melaku Desta, Coordinator of ECA’s African Trade Policy Centre, explored sustainable initiatives to integrate green solutions in Africa’s small businesses, and attracted more than 100 online and face-to-face participants.

Panelists also underscored the sustainable gains to be harnessed from green trade alongside the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and called on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to anticipate challenges as businesses seek to integrate green solutions.

In her keynote address, Dorothy Tembo, ITC Deputy Executive Director highlighted ITC's Green2Compete initiative, which supports small businesses in enhancing their competitiveness by integrating green production techniques for sustainable trade.

ITC is also working closely with the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) to increase transparency on private sustainability standards and plans to scale its work with market partners to achieve harmonization of these environmental standards, making them more attainable for small businesses. In his remarks, Hermogène Nsengimana, Secretary General of ARSO, emphasized the need to prioritize harmonization of standards to achieve sustainability.

Of late, the sustainability and resilience of value chains has assumed greater importance due to the disruptions induced by Covid-19 and demand for more sustainable production and trade increased. This was pointed out by Robert Hamwey, Economic Affairs Officer at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

On strengthening MSMEs’ capacities to improve their competitiveness in domestic, regional and global markets, Annalisa Primi, Head of Economic Transformation and Development at the OECD Development Centre, underlined the need to reform the policies that divide the informal and formal sectors, so as to enable the poor to participate in markets and engage in higher value-added business activities.

Describing the importance of increased investment in Africa’s green energy transition, Maximiliano Mendez-Parra, Principal Research Fellow at ODI affirmed the role the AfCFTA can play in securing investment for green energy and technology.