PUBLISHED ON March 30th, 2023

Private sector deemed key to unlocking AfCFTA potential

The private sector’s role is vital to fully unlock benefits of the AfCFTA as it offers huge opportunities for the private sector, financial experts emphasize.

On March 20th, the Pan Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industries /PACCI/ hosted a business roundtable on AfCFTA benefits for business. Several representatives from business across Africa and high level officials from regional and international organizations participated on the meeting which aimed to create awareness on the implementation and acceleration of the Africa continental free trade agreement and its benefits.

“SMEs accounts for millions of companies operating in Africa therefore building a structure that supports their growth in to inter-Africa trade is crucial while accelerating the implementation of the AfCFTA,” Kebour Ghenna, Executive Director of the chamber stated whilst indicating that over the 90 percent of PACCI members were SMEs.

As experts indicate, from the African private sector, which constitutes 90 percent of small and medium enterprises, challenges are faced in conducting cross-border trade due to non-tariff barriers such as complex customs procedures, lack of access to finance, high costs of transportation and logistics, and lack of access to information, among others inadequate infrastructure connectivity, rudimentary productive capacity, and risky or expensive payment systems as some of the barriers to trade.

(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

“We must push our governments and policy makers to accelerate the practical impacts of the agreement which has been rather minimal. We need to do more to put in place facilitation and regulation for export and trading,” said the executive director.

At the event, Djamel Ghrib, Director of Economic Development Integration and Trade at the Africa Union stated that, “The AfCFTA is the continents ambitious integration initiative with the aim of creating single continental market that goods and services free to move including free movement of people and business persons to expand investment and inter Africa trade relation across the continent to enhance continental development and transformation,” adding, “Africa is in challenging times due to the COVID-19 pressure, Russia-Ukraine war effect and the climate change. We at the AU commission have ties with the private sector to respond to challenges to get the prosperous Africa.”

“One of the aspects of AfCFTA is to grow continental trade in Africa which seeks technology to grow in the inter Africa trade,” said Stephen Kiptinness, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Safaricom telecommunications company, appreciating the recent 3 protocols including the intellectual property protocol that the AU has ratified. He remarked that one of the challenges that Africa has was indeed connectivity.

“Safaricom works to improve connectivity in inter Africa region to provide network which helps digital trade to happen. As we see, bringing Mpesa in many African countries can grow digital trade and financial services and access and inclusion,” said Stephen showing how as a private sector Safaricom is striving to meet the connectivity loopholes.

Africa’s private sector accounts for 80 per cent of total production, two-thirds of investment, and three-quarters of credit, and employs 90 per cent of the working-age population according to recent continental reports.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.