African Heads of State and Government, private sector leaders, and other stakeholders Friday convened for a virtual commemoration of the AfCFTA Business Forum 2020, ahead of the virtual 13th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) holding Saturday.
While speaking at the Forum, Secretary General of the AfCFTA Wamkele Mene said women in trade and young Africans were greatly inhibited in their quest to benefit from trade agreements, noting that for the AfCFTA to be inclusive, women and young Africans had to be placed at the heart of the FTA’s implementation.
“For the AfCFTA to be inclusive and to ensure shared growth across the continent; women, young Africans and SMEs have to be at the heart of its implementation. In this regard, we shall partner with the UNDP to ensure that the AfCFTA contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2030. We have partnered with the Afro-Champions to deploy digitally enabled platforms to connect SMEs, women in trade and young entrepreneurs to new markets on the African continent,” said Mene.
While addressing the Forum, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said: “Two years ago we signed a historic agreement and together wrote a new chapter in the story of African integration. The Covid pandemic has delayed the start of trading but we must stay on course. In Africa, we will start trading among ourselves in a few weeks. This collaborative action is now more important than ever towards rebuilding our economies and Africa’s resilience to future shocks.”
This year’s Forum focused on the significance of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Start of Trading scheduled for 1st January 2021 as well as how African businesses can prepare themselves for success in the imminent commencement trading activities under the Free Trade Area (FTA). Since the 2018 launch of the AfCFTA as a major step towards regional and continental integration, there had been key discussions aimed at promoting multi-stakeholder investment, trade policy advocacy and dialogue.
Speaking during the virtual forum, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed emphasised the enormous opportunities the AfCFTA provides for Africa’s business community, saying it will contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the continent. “From improving food security and conditions for traders, to creating jobs and opportunities, especially for women, the Free Trade Area opens enormous possibilities for a more resilient and prosperous African region,” she said.
The AfCFTA Business Forum provides a platform to debate and exchange views on the continent’s economic transformation through investment and trade with a wide range of key stakeholders. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the AfCFTA is expected to increase intra-Africa trade by 52% by 2022, which will boost production, consumption and economic growth across the continent.
The AfCFTA Business Forum 2020 provides an ideal platform for private sector stakeholders’ mobilization to harness the opportunity offered by the AfCFTA. It was also the ideal platform to gather perspectives and aspirations of Africa’s private sector as well as harness the resources of Africa’s private sector in the AU’s integration agenda.
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