Africa’s private sector converge in Cape Town to accelerate AfCFTA

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Africa’s private sector will descend upon Cape Town, South Africa to participate in the 2023 African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Business Forum – the first one to be held in person.

Convened by the AfCFTA Secretariat under the patronage of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the conference is scheduled to take place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from 16 – 18 April 2023.

A statement released by the AfCFTA secretariat notes the key objectives of the event are to create awareness of the current trade and investment opportunities in the area among Africa’s business community; connect businesses to funding opportunities for AfCFTA value chains; establish a private sector engagement platform for continued consultations on private sector needs in the implementation of the AfCFTA; and to promote a private sector-friendly environment, especially for Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) led by Women and Youth, to unlock more accessible and affordable trade finance opportunities.

Also, the event primarily aims to attract broad participation of Africa’s private sector, strategic investors, financial institutions, investment promotion agencies, business councils, chambers of commerce, multinational corporations, African women and youth business organisations, as well as Heads of States and Government, and AfCFTA Partners.

The AfCFTA Secretary-General His Excellency Wamkele Mene has called on Africa’s business community to partner with the Secretariat in order to ensure a successful implementation of the Agreement.

He said “creating an integrated One African Market hinges upon effective private sector participation in the implementation of the AfCFTA. It is therefore critical that Africa’s private sector, as one of the key drivers, takes a keen and active interest, supports and fully participates in AfCFTA’s programmes”.

“The idea is that we come together to find solutions aimed at boosting intra-Africa trade, creating opportunities, innovation and of course taking advantage of this expanded market under the AfCFTA.“It is only with the business community’s full involvement that we will achieve our goal of enhancing intra-African trade, raise Africa’s trading position on the global market, and accelerate economicgrowth, industrialization, production, and job creation”, added Mene.

The AfCFTA Business Forum is aimed at giving momentum and accelerating the implementation of the AfCFTA. In the short space of time since coming into existence, the AfCFTA has recorded some notable achievements including completion of Phase I of the AfCFTA and components of Phase II covering Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, the Dispute Settlement Mechanism, Investments, Competition Policy, and Intellectual Property Rights, provide countless trade and investment opportunities for the private sector to capitalize on. The Digital Trade protocol, which is expected to be concluded in July 2023, shall establish the appropriate regulatory framework for new market opportunities in the digital economy. The protocol on Women and Youth in Trade, which is also expected to be concluded in July 2023 is an important instrument for achieving inclusive benefits in the AfCFTA market.

While the conference will cover various pertinent trade issues, it will put a spotlight on the following sectors: agro-processing; automotive; pharmaceuticals; transportation and logistics; and digital trade

and payments. The forum takes place after the guided trade initiative, where countries have already started trading under the AfCFTA which makes this the ideal time to take advantage of the opportunity to promote business and investment in Africa.