Unity in Action: Expediting the AfCFTA Journey

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Addressing challenges and exploring solutions for AfCFTA acceleration was the main focus of the executive roundtable hosted by SVAI and PACCI in Ethiopia, highlighting the vital roles of the private sector and governments in driving sustainable development.


The power of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) lies in the ability for all businesses to participate in it – and this includes SMMEs. Recently, SVAI and the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry jointly hosted a roundtable in Ethiopia, focusing on: Building prosperous and sustainable economies and societies in Africa; and understanding the business benefits of the AfCFTA.

Through a successful AfCFTA, the continent will gain economic transformation, diversification, inclusion – and sustainability. The roundtable examined how sustainable investment actors – public and private, domestic and foreign – can work together to identify concrete reforms for sustainable investment, and ways to boost intra-African trade with the AfCFTA. With this as an objective, it was a lively discussion that centred around understanding key barriers to accelerating the AfCFTA, as well as what role the participants in the room could play towards addressing these barriers. 

Kebour Ghenna, Executive Director, PACCI opened the event: “I use this opportunity to renew the chamber’s call for the acceleration of the AfCFTA implementation. We need to push our policymakers to accelerate the practical impacts of the agreement which has been rather minimal.”

To set the scene keynote speakers were Djamel Ghrib, Director of Economic Development Trade division, Industry, and Mining at the African Union delivered an impassioned speech about promoting the AfCFTA in Africa on, and having realistic view of the challenges currently faced and what it would take to take the AfCFTA forward. 

The potential for intra-African digital trade and e-commerce remains constrained by traditional restrictions such as logistical challenges, limited internet penetration and access to financial systems and those related to the management and governance of data. While the digital economy offers opportunities for integration across Africa, a radical disruption and collective mind shift towards innovation are required when tackling what barriers lie ahead.

Another keynote speaker was Steve Kiptinness, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Safaricom, who addressed value creation through the power of technology – and highlighting the importance supporting the enhancement of digital trade as a technology company.

Talifhani Banks, CEO of AnalyticsX took to the podium to present JamiiTrade – a curated digital community of SMMEs trading across borders. This is a platform that will help SMMEs access real-time information on cross border trade, as well as connect with each other to participate in this trade. An example of innovative thinking and collaboration and turning challenges into opportunities to accelerate participation in the AfCFTA, and truly making it successful for all.

It was an enriching and insightful roundtable, with the diverse views of chambers of commerce, specific businesses and experts shared, highlighting the crucial role of the private sector and governments in facilitating the effective implementation of the AfCFTA to help achieve inclusive (women and the youth included) and sustainable development in the continent.

PACCI and SVAI will use learnings from this event to continue to engage with our cross-continental network on the next steps towards this contributing towards driving this collective agenda.