ITC Shares

Trade and Invest in One Africa

25 September 2019
Natalie Domeisen, International Trade Centre

The World Export Development Forum will ‘talk business and do business’ as part of Africa Industrialization Week from 18-22 November 2019.

The focus is on implementing the newly agreed African Continental Free Trade Area by putting the voice of businesses first, especially those featuring women and young entrepreneurs.

African states passed a truly historic trade agreement this past July. At a time when economic protectionism is on the rise, African political leaders offered a counter-message: reducing tariffs and encouraging deeper trade integration will unlock prosperity.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), launched at the African Union Summit for Heads of State in Niger, is a game-changer for trade. It demonstrates the political will to create new opportunities for Trade within Africa and offers new opportunities for buyers and investors outside it.

The African Union Commission’s Department of Trade and Industry led the ratification process for the agreement and is now at the forefront of public-private sector consultations to implement it. Numerous national events are bringing the agreement forward in African countries. A secretariat is being set up to monitor implementation in Accra, Ghana.


The World Export Development Forum (WEDF) is the first international milestone after the Niger summit.

Now in its 19th edition, the WEDF discusses how to better connect businesses to new markets. It brings together buyers and sellers, policymakers and business leaders and those who support them. The goal is to bring the benefits of good trade to more people in a sustainable way.

The forum is an integral part of the Africa Industrialization Week (18-22 November), led by the Department of Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission.

It is co-hosted with the African Union Commission and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Trade and Industry. With a market of over 100 million people, Ethiopia has been home to Africa’s fastest-growth rates over the past decade. It is positioning itself as a manufacturing hub while exploring green economy initiatives.

Participants are registering from around the world, including business leaders and entrepreneurs; policymakers; international organizations; trade and investment promotion agencies; business associations; and media.

Sessions are designed to help business make the most of the AfCFTA with a special focus on the role of women and youth.


This year’s WEDF is also unique. For the first time, it joins forces with the biggest International Trade Centre (ITC) events for youth, as well as for women in trade.

With an accent on young entrepreneurs, the YES Forum looks at policies, networks, skills and access to finance. The event is a contribution to the Decent Jobs for Youth initiative as well as Global Entrepreneurship Week. The event is organized by ITC with the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the United Nations Capital Development Fund.

ITC will also organize a Youth Media Zone throughout the week, allowing young entrepreneurs and journalists to interview key personalities at the event, take part in flash presentations and session debriefings and network among themselves.

SheTrades Global takes place during the same week. The annual event showcases innovative solutions to empower women in business. The event will be preceded by a workshop for 60 African businesswomen’s associations to help them make the most of the AfCFTA accord.

The SheTrades Global event features high-level officials of the African Union Commission and the Ethiopian government, trade ministers, first ladies and business partners.

Themes include how free trade agreements catalyse inclusive trade for women, with a spotlight on the African Continental Free Trade Area; innovative tools for women in trade, such as the SheTrades Outlook; and perspectives of SheTrades business partners.

The World Export Development Forum will reflect the results of these events in its plenary sessions, which are:

  • Investing in One Africa
  • Business Voices for One Africa
  • Digital Africa
  • Social Entrepreneurs: Pitch Your Ideas
  • Skills for the New Africa
  • Trade is Sustainable
  • Financing for Development: Focus on the African Continental Free Trade Area
  • Marketplace for the African Continental Free Trade Area



New business opportunities will open up with the African Continental Free Trade Area, which covers 1.2 billion people and an aggregate GDP of over $2 billion. The B2B matchmaking meetings focus on agribusiness, Africa’s most important sector, and its agricultural market is set to reach $1 trillion by 2030. A Meet the Expert speed workshop allows participants to query business experts on topics such as information-technology platforms, social media marketing tools and packaging techniques.

In addition, investors from China and India will have special meetings during the week as part of ongoing programmes to connect investors and buyers to African markets. The programme featuring China (Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa) and India (Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa) both feature Ethiopia as a key market, especially for textiles and clothing.


Watch for new publications to help business make the most of the new AfCFTA. They all will be launched at the World Export Development Forum:

  • African Trade Strategies
  • Business Guide on Non-Tariff Barriers in the African Continental Free Trade Area
  • Handbook on Sustainable and Responsible Investment Practices for Ethiopia
  • Second edition: Invest in Francophone Africa
  • French edition: Business Guide to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. 

Register for the World Export Development Forum, the YES Forum and SheTrades Global at
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