During the 2023 Regional Integration Issues Forum held in Accra, Ghana, Silver Ojakol, the Chief of Staff of the AfCFTA Secretariat, highlighted the prospect of intra-African trade within the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) surpassing $70 billion, thus outstripping the level of development assistance.
How RIFF strengthens SMEs for intra-African trade
The RIIF functions as a platform where stakeholders involved in regional integration and continental trade initiatives come together to raise awareness of the advantages offered by AfCFTA, with a special focus on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
The objective of the 2023 RIIF was to strengthen the capacity of SMEs for intra-African trade. In a statement issued in Abuja, AfCFTA emphasized that substantial profits could be achieved through collaboration among SMEs and their adoption of AfCFTA principles to overcome trade barriers.
Ojakol, representing AfCFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mene, underscored the significance of the agreement for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), highlighting its specific design to tackle the everyday hurdles encountered by those engaged in the trade of goods and services across African borders.
He said, “If African countries unite and achieve even a one percent increase in trade among themselves, we would generate $70 billion, surpassing the $58 billion provided by donors as development assistance.”
Importance of SMEs in intra-African trade
Additionally, Lehlohonolo Tlou, the Executive Director of the Centre for Regional Integration in Africa, emphasized the importance of providing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with the necessary skills and knowledge to surmount obstacles in intra-African trade and manufacture essential products.
Tlou highlighted the disheartening fact that despite 60 years since the establishment of the Organization of African Unity and the African Union, intra-African trade still stands at a mere 16 percent, underscoring the need for substantial improvement.
He added, “Africa still produces what it does not consume and consumes what it does not produce.”
The 2023 RIIF conference played a crucial role in promoting awareness of the benefits of AfCFTA, enabling SMEs to access regional markets or the intra-African trade and motivating them to consider collaboration for the creation of regional value chains.
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