The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has underscored the potential for internal trade to exceed $70 billion, surpassing the level of development assistance.
Silver Ojakol, Chief of Staff of the AfCFTA Secretariat, delivered this statement at the 2023 Regional Integration Issues Forum in Accra, Ghana.
The RIIF serves as a platform for stakeholders engaged in regional integration and continental trade initiatives to increase awareness of AfCFTA’s benefits, particularly for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
The goal of the 2023 RIIF was to enhance SMEs’ capacity for intra-African trade.
In a statement released in Abuja, the AfCFTA emphasised that significant earnings could be realised if SMEs collaborate and adopt AfCFTA principles to overcome trade barriers.
Ojakol, representing AfCFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mene, stressed the agreement’s importance for SMEs, emphasizing that it was designed to address the daily challenges faced by individuals trading goods and services across neighboring African borders.
He noted, “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.”
Furthermore, Lehlohonolo Tlou, Executive Director of the Centre for Regional Integration in Africa, underscored the necessity of equipping SMEs with the skills and knowledge needed to overcome intra-African trade barriers and produce essential goods.
Tlou pointed out that despite 60 years since the establishment of the Organization of African Unity and the African Union, intra-African trade remains disappointingly low at just 16 percent.
He added, “Africa still produces what it does not consume and consumes what it does not produce.”
The 2023 RIIF conference served as a vital step to raise awareness about AfCFTA’s advantages, empower SMEs to access regional markets, and encourage them to explore partnerships for establishing regional value chains.