Capitalise on opportunities to grow businesses - AfCFTA to SMEs
Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) have been encouraged to take advantage of opportunities that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) offers to create a buoyant economy for Africa.
This was because SMEs remained the backbone of African economies and that they owned 90 per cent of enterprises and contributed around 80 per cent of the labour force in most countries.
The Chief of Staff of AfCFTA, Silver Ojakol, said there were a lot SMEs could benefit from AfCFTA which included building their small businesses into giant ones with over 1.3 billion people at their disposal to trade with.
Using Ghanaian businesses as an example, he said persons who engaged in shea butter business in the northern region, for instance, should not see themselves as engaging with only 30 million people, but rather 1.3 billion people with over 600 million being women who would be interested in their products.
Mr Okajol made the call at the maiden edition of an SME conference in Accra held on the theme: “Breaking Business Barriers for AfCFTA.”
The two-day conference brought together about 150 participants made up of business owners of SMEs, private sector executives, international/African trade experts, the AfCFTA secretariat, regional business council, academia, financial institutions, think tanks among others.
The participants were from countries such as Senegal, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Namibia, South Africa, Togo, Cameroun, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Kenya.
The conference and the training were to offer African business leaders and stakeholders, a practical exposure of doing business across borders in the AfCFTA, provide an exchange of experience and facilitate the building of strategic relationships which would lead to increased access to cross border intra-African trade.
Organised by the Centre for Regional Integration in Africa (CRIA), the SME conference was convened on the Regional Integration Issues Forum(RIIF) platform in partnership with the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) and in collaboration with the GIMPA.
Rake in $79b revenue
The AfCFTA Chief of Staff said if Africans were able to increase trade by just one per cent, they would generate $79 billion far above the $58 billion they received as foreign development assistance annually.
Mr Okajol said there would be no AfCFTA without SMEs and the SMEs also needed AfCFTA to make meaningful contributions to the economy of the continent.
The Executive Director of CRIA, Prof. Lehlohonolo Tlou, indicated that intra-African trade was woefully low at 17 per cent as compared to other regions stating that intra-continental trade was 70 per cent in Europe, 60 per cent in Asia and 50 per cent in North America.
The Chairman of Afariwaa Group of Companies, Dr Nana Owusu Afari, said "AfCFTA should see to the removal of the artificial national boundaries to ensure the free flow of goods and services for intra-African trade".
He said if all African countries embraced fully the tenets of AfCFTA and allowed its protocols to work unhindered, intra-African trade would soon expand to the level of the Asian and European trades.