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Wamkele Mene: AfCFTA will not succeed without participation of SMEs

Wamkele Mene, AfCFTA Secretary General

Wamkele Mene, secretary general of AfCFTA

Wamkele Mene, secretary general of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), has reiterated the importance of working toward boosting the capacities of small and medium scale enterprises to leverage opportunities provided by the trade pact, given that they form a chunk of businesses on the continent.

Commenting on the theme ‘Bold Solutions for Resilient Recovery’ at the 13th World Trade Promotion Organisation (WTPO) Conference in Accra, he said considering that many businesses on the continent are found in the SME sector, it is now time to boost their capacities to take part of the continental trade; as over-reliance on big corporations will not impact much on the continent as it would if efforts are made to get young entrepreneurs and small businesses to participate.

“That is why today we will be signing a memorandum of understanding with the International Trade Centre (ITC) to ensure that we position our small-scale enterprises on the continent to see benefits of the AfCFTA.

“I am fortunate enough to travel throughout the continent, and what I hear from young entrepreneurs, from small enterprises, is that this trade agreement must succeed. I assured them that this trade agreement is not about the past. It is about the future, and that is why our small, medium enterprises have to be at the centre of benefitting from this,” Mene said.

“That’s why our young entrepreneurs have to benefit. We cannot have a trade agreement that benefits only the large corporations in Africa. They should benefit, but they should not be the exclusive beneficiaries. It should not be the elite. The driver of Africa’s recovery in the COVID-19 era has to be small and medium enterprises which employ over 450 million Africans and contribute over 60 percent to Africa’s GDP,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, executive director-ITC, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, expressed her excitement about the prospective benefits that SMEs stand to gain from the MoU with the AfCFTA Secretariat – saying it is the right move now, considering the challenges which the pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war have brought.

“We will look at strategic ways in which trade promotional organisations like Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) can actually help SMEs. We will look at our internal workings and how we are going to make it work for you. I would like express my gratitude to the Secretary-General for signing this MoU on how we are going to support the AfCFTA, particularly MSMEs to utilise the AfCFTA,” she said.

Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen, further emphasised the need to support SMEs on the continent to take up the mantle of driving recovery from the pandemic and ongoing war.

“The need for Trade Promotion Organisations worldwide to effectively support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to address challenges of the COVID-era economy is now a development imperative. They play a key role in employing a majority of the world’s workforce. That is why this WTPO conference, which intends to discuss ways that Trade Promotion Organisations can best support the private sector to enhance production and productivity levels, is most welcome,” he said.

CEO of GEPA, Dr. Afua Asabea Asare, said her outfit will remain committed to introducing and implementing programmes that will contribute to building the capacities of SMEs to take advantage of the continental trade pact.

“We can all testify that even at the pinnacle of COVID-19, it is small businesses that have been the cornerstone of progress and sustainability. Risks are threats, but they also bring opportunities. The Ghana Export Promotion Authority – an agency of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, is committed to supporting small businesses build on their capacities and building the kind of resilience that will enable them to compete favourably on international markets.”

“I believe that the theme of this year’s conference – ‘Bold Solutions for Resilience and Recovery’ – will provide us with much needed trends and insights to enable us support our MSMEs even more, drawing from the experiences of various markets,” she said.

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