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We need to be more strategic in capacity building for SMEs – CRIA

The Centre for Regional Integration in Africa (CRIA) has made a strong case for a strategic capacity building for small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) to support intra trade activities on the continent.

According to the Executive Director, Professor Lehlohonolo Tlou, Africa must be deliberate in supporting the SME space through proper regulatory frameworks.

She further reiterated the importance of capacity building and equipping SMEs with the requisite skills and knowledge to break intra-Africa trade barriers and produce what it needs.

She emphasised that 60 years after the establishment of the OAU and the African Union, intra-African trade is abysmally low at 16%.

“Africa still produces what it does not consume and consumes what it does not produce. The 2023 RIIF conference was convened as part of measures to raise awareness of the benefits of the AfCFTA, build capacity for SMEs to access regional markets; and encourage SMEs to explore partnerships for establishing regional value chains,” she said.

Chief of Staff of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat, Silver Ojakol, said the secretariat is pushing hard in ensuring robust trading activities among member states

He emphasised the importance of the AfCFTA for SMEs, noting that the agreement is not for big corporations.

“The agreement was designed and framed for the women and young men who on a daily basis face challenges across the continent when crossing neighboring borders to trade in goods and services.”

“If African countries came together and achieved just one percentage increase in trade amongst itself, we would earn 70 billion dollars, which will be higher than the 58 billion dollars given by donors as development assistance,”he noted.

Rector at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Affairs (GIMPA), Prof. Samuel Bonsu, pledged his outfit commitment to work with CRIA, ACBF and other partners to foster trade on the African continent by empowering businesses and leaders to develop policies and initiatives that are relevant to support SME growth on the continent

The RIIF is a sensitisation mechanism and an interface platform for stakeholders involved in regional integration and continental trade initiatives. The 2023 RIIF aimed at increasing awareness of the AfCFTA and its benefits for SMEs, as well as to strengthen SMEs’ capacity to engage in intra-African trade.

The two-day SME conference was under the theme “breaking business barriers for AfCFTA Acceleration.” The conference was organized by the Centre for regional Integration Africa (CRIA), the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), in collaboration with the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, and with the support from Afreximbank.

The conference brought together over 150 participants from across Africa, including government officials, business leaders, academia, and civil society representatives. The participants discussed a wide range of issues related to AfCFTA implementation, including trade barriers, infrastructure, and access to finance.

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