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AfCFTA: UNDP, AeTrade scale-up continent-wide partnership on digital capacities for women, youth

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the African Electronic Trade Group (AeTrade Group) Thursday signed a new partnership agreement aimed at enhancing MSMEs’ access to digital marketing and the One African Market under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

 

Ms Ahunna Ezikonwa and Mr Mulualem Syoum virtually signing the partnership agreement

 

Press Release

The Sokokuu digital marketplace will be deployed across the continent to specifically boost visibility, sales and markets for women and youth-owned exporting enterprises. The word Sokokuu translates to large market or rather central market and signifies unity in kiSwahili, one of the six official languages of the AU.

While speaking during the virtual memorandum of understanding signing ceremony, UN Assistant Secretary-General Ahunna Eziakonwa who is UNDP’s Assistant Administrator cum Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa, emphasized the crucial role of digital transformation in enabling MSME to leapfrog challenges through the practical, innovative and results-oriented approach of AeTrade Group.

“Getting the AfCFTA’s transformative power to the ground requires unlocking bottlenecks in the way of women and young exporters. We want to increase their visibility by onboarding hundreds of SMEs in each country into the Sokokuu digital marketplace and give them a real shot in the One African Market,” noted the UN Assistant Secretary-General.

The AeTrade Group is an African Diaspora-led social entrepreneurship initiative filling crucial gaps in e-commerce and other ICTs. It aims to digitalize trade in Africa at a large scale and encourages investment in SMEs with a view to creating more jobs for the growing youth population thereby generating wealth across the continent.

To this end, the UNDP-AeTrade partnership contributes to the overall objective of supporting 600,000 SMEs to access the AfCFTA market through Sokokuu’s scalable digital capacity building marketplace whilst creating 22 million decent jobs in the next four years.

Therefore, the partnership will focus on enhancing export readiness of women and youth–led SMEs through onboarding them onto Sokokuu;  facilitation of the boosting of MSMEs exporter competitiveness, financial and digital inclusion;  promotion of youth enterprises’ access to Business to Business (B2B) and Business-to-Government (B2G) networking, mentorship as well as venture capital funding at continental trade fairs.

In his remarks, Mr. Mulualem Syoum, CEO/Chairman of AeTrade said the Group’s approach to grassroots digital capacity building and promotion of “Made in Africa” products and services via the Sokokuu platform, in partnership with Africa’s private sector particularly young entrepreneurs, was based on a sustainable and shared prosperity approach and aligned with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 5, 8 and 9, respectively.

“We appreciate the leadership of the Assistant Secretary General [Ahunna Eziakonwa] whose vision and passion for economic empowerment, especially for MSMEs, women and youth is exemplary. We consider her one of the champions of our initiative and today’s important milestone inspires us to continue to build this movement of homegrown African solutions,” said Syoum.

It would be recalled that the A-eTrade Group had on 19 October 2018 signed a memorandum of understanding with the African Union Commission to foster public-private partnership through a continental e-commerce platform and associated services, which paved the way for the development of the Sokokuu digital marketplace.

Remarkably, UNDP’s Renewed Strategic Offer in Africa prioritizes digitalization as a foundational enabler for accelerating the attainment of SDGs, AU’s Agenda 2063 and Africa’s overall socioeconomic progress. “AU Member States have demonstrated strong political leadership in ratifying the AfCFTA agreement and we are committed to supporting its operationalization and nurturing the opportunities it creates for greater inclusion across the continent, particularly for women and youth,” emphasized Ahunna Eziakonwa.

In a related development, Mr Syoum and Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta had Thursday signed a host country agreement for AeTrade’s continental headquarters, on behalf of the Government of Rwanda and AeTrade Group, respectively. AeTrade will also be supporting the implementation of AfCFTA from an ICT and logistics perspective.  It would be recalled that AeTrade had during the commemoration of 2021 Africa Integration Day in July formally announced Rwanda as host country for its continental headquarters.

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