Geneva — The African Continental Free Trade Area accord is one of the most critical developments in African trade and integration, says the executive director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), the UN agency supporting small business.
Pamela Coke-Hamilton, who began her career in Jamaica’s foreign ministry and now heads the ITC, recently met journalists at the centre’s base in Geneva, where she spoke about “strategic re-globalization” as a major trend.
The AfCFTA was established in 2018, and by 2023 all 54 members of the African Union had signed it, making it the largest free-trade area after the World Trade Organization (WTO) judged by the number of its member states.
Coke-Hamilton described strategic re-globalization as “the new search for global corridors for trade routes” as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war and post-Covid changes.
She said the disruption of supply channels and a recognition that dependence on China is immense has led to the world looking for “near-shoring” and new supply routes.
Mandated to UN and WTO
The ITC has a joint mandate with the WTO and the United Nations through the UN Conference on Trade and Development, and much of its work focuses on Africa.
The task of trade groups was now to assess new trends and address how strategic re-globalization is going to impact how countries engage with one another, Coke-Hamilton added. She said that “the AfCFTA is also a whole new open arena” in which the focus would be on regional value chains within Africa and “how those are going to impact new arenas of trade”.
The ITC has identified several important future regional value chains.
“Those are automotive, pharmaceuticals, baby food, textiles and clothing. And there’s already discussion taking place on a regional value chain for electric batteries,” said Coke-Hamilton.
“I think the ITC is also one of the organizations that believe the AfCFTA was one of the single most important developments in African trade and integration….because it is the first time that there has been agreement among all 54 countries.”
Coke-Hamilton said the ITC has worked with the AfCFTA secretariat, helping with the Africa Trade Observatory, one of the pillars of the agreement. It has also worked on how to export with Afreximbank.
Awards to Africa and Asia
Separately the ITC has announced that three African and four Asian youth start-ups will take centre stage at this year’s World Export Development Forum, WEDF, from June 26 to 29 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
WEDF is the ITC’s annual flagship event.
The selected start-ups will pitch their businesses to a panel of judges at the Youth Ecopreneur Awards 2023. The contest includes two award categories: Green Business Solutions and Land Restoration.
The Green Business Solutions shortlisted companies include:
For the Land Restoration category, the shortlist includes 10 companies from seven countries:
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