The inaugural meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council of the AeTrade Group was held, under the Chairmanship of His Majesty King Mswati III of Eswatini, on the sidelines of the recent African Union’s Extraordinary Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification and the Extraordinary Session on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The Kigali-headquartered AeTrade is an African Diaspora-led social entrepreneurship initiative focused on filling crucial gaps in e-commerce and other ICTs so as to digitalize trade in Africa, by encouraging investment in SMEs with a view to creating more jobs for the continent’s growing youth population.
A press release by AeTrade said the meeting was chaired by the Right Honourable Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Eswatini, Mr. Cleopas Dlamini and attended by Mr. Demek Mekonnen, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; and the Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Mr. Wamkele Mene.
Others were Rwanda’s Ambassador to the African Union and UNECA, Ms. Hope Tumukunde; Ghana’s Ambassador to Austria and the UN offices, Mr Philbert Johnson; Mr. Ousmane Bah, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy of the Gambia; as well as CEO of the AeTrade Group, Mr. Mulualem Syoum – who also represented the Chairman of the AeTrade Group, H.E Hailemariam Desalegn.
The high-level meeting was the maiden session of the Presidential Advisory Council, which received a comprehensive report from the Chairperson of the Council and commended the Kingdom of Eswatini for its pioneering role in hosting the AeTrade Group and the impressive progress made despite the COVID-19 pandemic, among other recommendations.
“Given the strategic nature of the initiative and its potential to accelerate economic transformation on the continent in an inclusive manner, it was recommended that it be considered as a flagship project under Agenda 2063 in the second 10-year implementation plan. Furthermore, they also reaffirmed their commitment to support the implementation of activities at country level in order to create millions of jobs in the next decade,” the press statement said.
The meeting was followed by the signing of an MoU between the AeTrade Group and the AfCFTA Secretariat, aimed at delivering the AfCFTA Agreement’s intended results of enabling SMEs, women and youth to access and reap benefits from the emerging continental market through AeTrade’s Sokokuu, a pan African digital capacity building e-commerce platform.
AeTrade said the new partnership with AfCFTA would accelerate digital and financial inclusion at a larger scale by encouraging investment in small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) with a view to creating 80-125 million jobs by 2037, thereby eradicating extreme poverty in line with Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030.
“The AfCFTA is our collective key to unlocking the opportunities. The African continent needs a human-centered development anchored on the improvement of the standard and quality of life of all segments of the population, thus achieving equal opportunities and equitable distribution of Africa’s wealth across classes, cultures, communities and genders,” AfCFTA Secretary-General Mene was quoted to have said.
In his response, Mr. Mulualem Syoum, CEO of AeTrade, said the Group’s approach to grassroots digital capacity building was aligned to the AU’s Agenda 2063. “We are building an inclusive ecosystem to provide affordable solutions for SMEs, women and youth to access the market, including multichannel payments, affordable finance and logistics. Working together we can attain shared prosperity in all African countries.”
The AeTrade-AfCFTA partnership seeks to contribute to the overall objective of supporting 600,000 SMEs to access the AfCFTA market through the Sokokuu scalable digital capacity building marketplace whilst creating 22 million decent jobs in the next four years.
To this end, the partnership will focus on enhancing the export readiness of women and youth–led SMEs through onboarding onto the digital marketplace; facilitate boosting of MSME exporter competitiveness, financial and digital inclusion; and promote youth enterprise access to B2B and B2G networking, mentorship and venture capital funding at continental trade fairs.
Ahead of the September 21 United Nations Ministerial Meeting for the Summit of the Future …