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The Role Of the Private Sector in AfCFTA

Focused group of young African businesspeople standing in the lobby of a modern office and talking together over a digital tablet

By Kyesubire Greigg, Global President, SME Founders Association.

It is easy to say that our governments must implement AfCFTA fully, and then we will take advantage of it. However, that is not the case. As the private sector, we must choose to interrogate our role and take our place in the AfCFTA implementation. We must remember that 90% of all Afrikan trade is through SMEs and informal traders. 

We hosted Cynthia Gnassingbe, Special Advisor on Private Sector to the Secretary-General, at the AfCFTA Secretariat in Ghana for the June AfCFTA Dialogues. Her wealth of experience as an entrepreneur makes her the ideal candidate to represent the private sector and highlight what we need to focus on.

In a riveting presentation, Cynthia highlighted the current state of the AfCFTA. It covers 55 countries, 42 currencies, and a myriad of borders and barriers with differences at each border crossing are daunting. AfCFTAs focus is to progressively lower and dismantle trade barriers to stimulate growth, drive innovation and promote value for the continent. 

An element that needs resolution is payments. AFREXIM bank is currently working to have all central banks on the continent connected to the PAPSS switch so that all traders, regardless of size, can pay and receive payments in their local currencies. The AfCFTA will indeed drive economic integration and growth to the tune of 5 billion dollars annually.

The private sector is critical to implementing AfCFTA because we are the ones who trade across the continent. This implementation includes several key elements.

The private sector is critical to implementing AfCFTA because we are the ones who trade across the continent.

First, we must know where our government stands on the agreement and how far the implementation has gone. Each country has a National Implementation Committee that oversees progress and ensures all elements needed are in place. The private sector must connect with and hold this committee accountable to actualise the respective trade instruments, policies and activations.

Second, we must contribute to the trade knowledge base of our countries through research. Research should include the state of the market, testing the trade instruments, and feedback on tariff and non-tariff barriers, among others. We are on the ground, using the systems and experiencing the agreement. We must turn our wealth of information into usable forms like white papers, research findings, articles and reports.

Third, we must take our findings and lobby the government agencies to understand the state of trade and help them draft the right policies to negotiate appropriately for our needs. 

Fourth, we must integrate regional value chains. AfCFTA is grounded on the regional trading blocs and enhances them. The better the value chain integration and implementation, the greater the value the individual business owners will receive.

Finally, and not least, we must build the capacity of businesses to handle international trade and ensure business continuity based on stability and economic growth.

This conversation with Cynthia has given us great insight into how we can be part of AfCFTA. As the SME Founders Association, we are committed to helping business owners understand the opportunities AfCFTA offers and help more businesses thrive.

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