The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement will create the largest free trade area in the world with its 54 signatories, 1.3 billion people on the continent, traversing 30.365M square kilometers and the potential to create a combined gross domestic product of approximately $3.4 trillion USD. Even with all this, there are mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it is the next greatest thing but on the other, not enough people understand it and so they are unable to tap into the benefits coming their way.
The average SME is not structured to take advantage of AfCFTA. Why? Most SMEs are subsistence businesses with a daily meal mindset while export and global trade requires a different mindset.
Imagine with me that you need to feed your family, send the children to school, send some money to the family in the village and so on. If you are unable to get a job it is likely you will try your hand at business just to make ends meet and will settle on minimal records as long as you can earn money. Could you do better? Of course but do
you know how? Highly unlikely.
The mind of the world-class entrepreneur is driven by market need, market fit, standards systems, and structures. These are critical to the success of the business and the ability to make it seamless and reliably repeatable regardless of who is on the shop floor or on the phone with the client.
As SFA we believe in shifting the SMEs paradigm in our ecosystem from local to world-class to catalyse uptake of emerging opportunities. Our Global President, Kyesubire Greigg, has been part of an AfCFTA program offered in partnership by the Africa Women and Youth Empowerment Group (AWYEG), an initiative is Commercial Law
Development program of US Dept of Commerce. Organisation of Women in International Trade (OWIT), International Trade Center (ITC) and the United Nations Economic Commision for Africa (UNECA).
“The program was transformational based on the depth of learning. It was an opportunity to learn the theory but also have conversations with actual traders, redesigning their businesses for growth, creating pathways for others to follow and collaborating across boarders to generate more business. This was also an opportunity to see the different mindset needed by ever entrepreneur to succeed at export at work.” President Kyesubire said. “The opportunity to interact with the theory alone in a self-paced program, then discuss learnings in groups in a virtual masterclass, sit together and learn then finally interact with private sector and policy makers at the AfCFTA Business Forum in Capetown, fully opened my eyes.”
As a learning and linkages community, we have programs designed to help SMEs to take advantage of AfCFTA. We have monthly conversations with different players in the AfCFTA ecosystem to help demystify the intricacies of the trade agreement and help more businesses position themselves for AfCFTA success.