Jasper Eradiri, who was at the 2019 Africa Industrialization Week (AIW) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is the Secretary-General of the All Africa Association for Small and Medium Enterprises (AAASME), a continental advocacy body working to support the development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) ecosystem in Africa
How did the All Africa Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (AAASME) came into being?
The All Africa Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (AAASME) was formed in 2017, during the AfroChampions Boma on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) held in Kigali, Rwanda; boma is a Swahili expression for a gathering for the discussion of issues of interest to the community. The conference was focused on examining the challenges faced by SMEs across Africa.
We discovered that SMEs in Africa were faced with numerous challenges including lack of access to finance, poor linkages and networks as well as lack of access to local and international markets. Hence, the decision to establish AAASME was made, to serve as a continental advocacy body whose objective is to promote, support, develop and protect the interest of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in Africa.
On March 1, 2018, the World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises (WASME) led by its President, Alhaji Babale Girei, during the 2018 Africa SME Roundtable, inaugurated a Ten-Man Executive Board for AAASME, with Ambassador Kheswer Chandan Jankee (current Mauritian ambassador to Germany) as President. Membership of AAASME Exco encompasses representatives of all 5 regions of the African continent – West, East, Central, North and Southern Africa, who work collectively to drive the structure, objectives and various initiatives of the organization.
The inaugural AAASME board meeting was held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state of Nigeria on March 2, 2018. Moreover, AAASME, alongside collaborators, convened the 2019 Microfinance and SMEs Summit in January 28-31, 2019, with participants attending from across Africa where resolutions aimed at advancing the interests of African SMEs were reached.
How has AAASME’s journey been thus far?
Within a year of our inauguration, AAASME became a member of many other organizations and networks focused on solving the challenges of SMEs in Africa. We have been partners at many events on SMEs across African countries such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast, South Africa, amongst others. All these are platforms to tell the story of AAASME and to continuously engage with continental bodies such the African Union.
Worthy of mention is our participation at a stakeholders’ sensitization workshop on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) held at Dakar, Senegal, in 2018. Also, we have been engaging with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), African Union Commission (AUC), amongst other institutions, to establish partnerships and also acquire the necessary support to drive solutions for SMEs in Africa.
Therefore, we are excited to be part of the Africa Industrialization Week (AIW); we have leveraged this opportunity to share our story so as to canvass support in our quest to provide solutions to SMEs on the continent. We believe that Africa is dynamic; it is unique in terms of the peculiarity of its challenges. Hence, for our SMEs to thrive, we need to develop the necessary modalities for improving access to finance for them, using our indigenous methods.
AAASME is ready to be part of the implementation of the AfCFTA towards the acceleration of industrial development in Africa and the realization of AU Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. And we are happy that the AUC’s Department of Trade and Industry is collaborating with us to achieve these goals of boosting intra-African trade and economic development. SMEs are critical to the realization of these goals. One of the aspirations of Agenda 2063 is ensuring prosperity for all Africans; Africa cannot be prosperous without ending poverty, we cannot end poverty without creating wealth; and we cannot create wealth without SMEs.
Where do you see the African SMEs ecosystem in the next 5 years?
By 2024, we want to see a better coordinated SME ecosystem in Africa. We hope that SMEs will be flourishing and consequently be able to create wealth for entities and individuals. We want to see economic re-engineering by leveraging SMEs to create jobs on the continent. For every SME that is being supported, a couple of direct and indirect jobs will be created leading to multiplier effects across the continent – and if the continent flourishes then we are all better off!
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