Man speaks with microphone  in front of workshop

Helping West African small businesses reap benefits of free trade

9 June 2023
ITC News

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) holds immense potential, but West African entrepreneurs find its complexities challenging. A robust new training programme gives tailored solutions so their business can grow.

The regional workshop gave key information to experienced trainers, trade professionals, and associations, so they can better support entrepreneurs in navigating AfCFTA’s export requirements.

The training was organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The UNDP Deputy Resident Representative - Programmes, Nigeria, Mr. Lealem Berhanu Dinku stated “increased MSME production and trade for the African market is an important indicator of the success of the AfCFTA. UNDP is committed to collaborating with business support organizations as they equip MSMEs maximize the opportunities in the AfCFTA”.

Group photo of workshop participants outside a building
Participants and representatives of agencies gather for a group photo during the ECOWAS, UNDP & ITC regional workshop on maximising opportunities in the AfCFTA.
Photo by ECOWAS Commission

The workshop focused on highlighting AfCFTA opportunities, showing strategies and approaches for ECOWAS traders to access the African market, and encouraging the use of ITC tools such as the African Trade Observatory.

“All our AfCFTA trainings include a strong focus on investment, trade, market intelligence and value chain development. MSMEs are mentored on how to develop a robust business case to pitch to potential financiers and how to utilize ITC’s suite of trade and market intelligence tools,” said Ashish Shah, Director, Division of Country Programmes, ITC.

The training also outlined existing synergies between the AfCFTA and ECOWAS.

“ECOWAS is committed to supporting West African businesses in harnessing AfCFTA advantages. We collaborate with partners like ITC and UNDP, providing tailored training and market intelligence. With a focus on women and youth, our aim is to empower entrepreneurs, drive inclusive growth and prosperity across West Africa,” said Massandjé Toure-Litse, Commissioner, Economic Affairs & Agriculture, ECOWAS Commission.

With a focus on women entrepreneurs through ITC’s SheTrades programme, the workshop equipped trade associations to improve their support to small businesses and to pave the way to inclusive regional trade.

This is one of several upcoming workshops to boost small businesses and increase regional competitiveness through the West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP), as well as broaden trade and export opportunities for African businesses through continental trade as part of the One Trade Africa programme.

Three men speak on panel in conference room
Representatives of UNDP, ECOWAS and ITC during the opening session of the ECOWAS, UNDP & ITC regional workshop on maximising opportunities in the AfCFTA held in Abuja, Nigeria.
Photo by ECOWAS Commission


The West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP) aims to support selected value chains at national and regional level to promote structural transformation and better access to regional and international markets, while taking into account social and environmental concerns. Its overall objective is to strengthen competitiveness of West African countries and enhance their integration into the regional and international trading system.


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 UNDP

UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet. Learn more at or follow us @undpafrica on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.