The Independent Continental Youth Advisory Council on the African Continental Free Trade Area (ICOYACA), which seeks to mainstream youth participation in the AfCFTA across the continent, Wednesday hosted the inaugural episode of its online AfCFTA YouthEngage Series.
By Stephen Enoch
ICOYACA says the overall aim of the YouthEngage Series was to provide an exchange platform between youth and women in trade and policymakers on topical issues around the AfCFTA adding that recommendations by youth and policymakers in the course of the series will constitute policy briefs and action plans targeting relevant stakeholders including the AfCFTA Secretariat and AfCFTA State Parties.
The inaugural edition of the youth engage series themed: “Youth and the AfCFTA” sought to familiarize and equip the African youth with an understanding of the AfCFTA and how they could benefit from the free trade area, in accordance with ICOYACA’s vision of aiding active participation of youths in the AfCFTA.
Ms Yavi Madurai, executive director of the Pan African Business Women’s Association (PABWA), who was a guest speaker at the maiden session, said the AfCFTA presents an opportunity for African youths to change the continent’s positioning in world affairs. She noted that oftentimes, Africa was viewed as a dependent, poverty-stricken continent hence the need for young people to take full ownership of the AfCFTA so as to create the desired economic prosperity on the continent.
Nonetheless, Madurai said despite the colossal opportunities that the AfCFTA would create through the expansion of intra-African trade, young people must be intentional and deliberate in their effort to benefit from these opportunities and change Africa’s current economic narrative. “For once, we need to replace aid with trade and to see that happen it must be our responsibility to take advantage of the AfCFTA to build the future that we want to see,” she said.
Madurai noted that regardless of the fact that individual countries might still not be ready to begin trade under the free trade area, young entrepreneurs must not to wait for the full operationalization of the free trade area in their respective countries to begin to engage with the process. Instead, she urged them to begin to form partnerships with fellow young African entrepreneurs across the continent to co-produce and trade their products and services.
Another guest speaker, Adam Alqali, editor of African Newspage, described AfCFTA as the best thing that has happened to the continent since the formation of the defunct Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, thanks to its enormous potentials for transforming the economic condition and livelihoods of African people. He nonetheless noted the prevailing sense of pessimism among young Africans about the AfCFTA which, he said, was not unconnected with frustrations brought about by decades of underdevelopment and lack of economic progress.
“The transformative effect of the AfCFTA isn’t just for business owners and entrepreneurs. The economic and trade liberalization that we expect to see when the free trade area becomes fully functional will have a positive impact on people from all walks of life. And the AfCFTA isn’t a standalone agreement; it is one of 15 flagship projects of Agenda 2063. Along with it, we have got the Single African Air Transport Market and Free Movement Protocol all of which will make movement across Africa seamless,” Alqali said.
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