By Dickson Omobola
THE Ichikowitz Family Foundation’s African Youth Survey reports have revealed that 46 per cent of young Africans had limited knowledge of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, which was brokered by the African Union, AU, in 2018.
The foundation, which conducted an expansive study of Africans between the ages of 18 and 24, also disclosed that among those who were aware of AfCFTA, the majority (55 per cent) of respondents said the free trade area would have a positive impact on their country.
According to the foundation, a little more than one-in-five young Africans (22 per cent) indicated that they were familiar with AfCFTA, one-in-five were skeptical about AfCFTA making a difference in their country’s economic situation, while 15 per cent noted that it would worsen the situation.
Ichikowitz Family Foundation Chairman, Ivor Ichikowitz, said: “During Africa Month and amid ongoing, seismically shifting geopolitical partnerships and conflicts which have massive implications on our African economies, our leaders present and future are quickly coming to the realization that we must look inward for economic opportunity; inward to fuel the entrepreneurial prowess which will catapult our start-up continent forward; and inward also to address the lingering challenges which continue to motivate our brightest and best to leave our shores.
“From what we have learned through this poll, future African business leaders will put the meat on the bones of the African Continental Free Trade Area once awareness of the pact and the advantages it offers African economies becomes better known. The findings on African youth awareness of AfCFTA, together with greater public education, will bolster our next generation’s recognition of all it affords them, and will ensure that Africa is on the right track when it comes to putting in place the conditions for more robust trade between ourselves.”
A statement by the foundation also reads: “Other key findings include the three countries with the highest levels of current support for the AfCTFA among young people are Rwanda (84 per cent), Ghana (72 per cent), and Mali (70 per cent).
“The countries where youth are most inclined to suspect the AfCTFA will have a negative effect are Sudan (24 per cent), the Democratic Republic of Congo (23 per cent), Congo-Brazzaville (21 per cent), and Zambia (21 per cent).
“Only 17 per cent of respondents knew of the new trade zone by name – More than six-in-ten young Africans in Sudan and South Africa had never heard of it altogether.
“Comprising less than three percent of world trade in 2023, Africa’s substantial room for growth begins with intra-continental investment, economic experts agree. The AfCFTA project aims to dramatically ease conditions for commerce between Africa’s 55 nations, eliminating barriers and increasing trade, which is projected to have enormous impact on the continent, its 1.3 billion citizens and estimated $3.4 trillion GDP, the African Union asserts.
“If fully implemented, the Pan-African pact could raise incomes by 9 percent by 2035 and lift 50 million people out of extreme poverty in the process.
“The African Youth Survey also reflects strong support among the continent’s rising generation for free enterprise. An astounding 78% of respondents say they plan to open their own business in the next five years.
“While 44% of respondents have suggested that they have considered emigrating in order to pursue better economic opportunities in other countries, the AfCTFA could change this picture once its full effects are seen, supporters – including the United Nations – of the agreement have speculated.”