The International Trade Centre, UN Development Programme and UN Women have partnered with the East African Business Council (EABC) to engage business support organisations (BSOs) in the region on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

As part of this collaboration, a workshop that kicked off on 20th to 22nd September 2022, brought over 70 representatives from the region’s business ecosystem to learn about the AfCFTA.  They also gained insight on the status of negotiations as well as the progress made on implementing the Agreement.

It also provided BSOs with a comprehensive toolkit on how best to tailor their services to
drive business competitiveness under a new liberalized African market. MSMEs especially
women and youth entrepreneurs will benefit when the institutions within Africa’s business
ecosystems are strengthened to respond to their emerging needs and advocate for their

MSMEs from other regional economic trade blocs present at the workshop aimed at
fostering cross-regional networking among businesses took the opportunity showcased
their products at the event.

Director Country Programmes ITC, Mr. Ashisha Shah said, “Women and youth are Africa’s great resource. The AfCFTA is the silver bullet into the future and One Trade Africa, ITC’s corporate programme is steadfast to unlock the USD.22 billion intra-Africa export potential and empower MSMEs, women and youth to access meaningful business opportunities under the AfCFTA.”

Adekemi Ndieli, the UN Women Deputy Country Representative said, “We need to demystify the legal and policy context for women and youth. Sub-Saharan Africa and particularly Uganda has the highest number of women entrepreneurs in the world.” She further called for more inclusive participation of women and youth in policy negotiations, ease access to finance, uptake of information technology for women traders, and take deliberate actions such as capacity building for SMEs on international and regional trade requirements and empowering women-owned firms to invest in trade opportunities under the AfCFTA.

Executive Director of the East African Business Council (EABC) Mr. John Kalisa emphasized on the need to improve the calibre of East African businesses in preparation for greater competition brought about by the AfCFTA and to boost productivity in the region. Mr. Kalisa stated the AfCFTA offers a market of 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of USD.3.4 trillion and its implementation will lift 100 million Africans out of poverty. He additionally indicated that the AfCFTA will not work if we ignore the role of women and youth and called for the finalization of the AfCFTA protocol on worm and Youth. He expounded that information asymmetry, enforcement of contracts, impatient capital, and foreign exchange losses are among the challenges facing women and youth engaged in cross-border trade in the EAC bloc and Africa.

In Africa, BSOs play a crucial role in supporting small businesses particularly women and
young entrepreneurs to trade and capitalize on opportunities available through the
AfCFTA. The Kampala workshop sets the first of these workshops in motion where UN
Agencies will collaborate and engage regional and national stakeholders to support
MSMEs to take advantage of the AfCFTA.