SMEs Getting on to Center Stage in African Trade
In its bid to boost trade within Africa region and in order to enhance the role of SMEs in the African trade, Assembly of the Heads of State and Government had taken a Decision to fast track the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as part of the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT). The negotiations for the AfCFTA were launched on 15 June 2015 through another Assembly Decision (Assembly/AU/Dec. 569(XXV), which sought to integrate Africa’s markets in line with the objectives and principles enunciated in the Abuja Treaty.
Recently, at Dakar, Senegal the African Union Commission held a workshop for private sector and Civil Society Organizations over the ongoing inputs on African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement which will encourage trade liberalization, open borders and Markets amongst African Nations, 12 countries have appended, ratified the document but 11 more are required for this to take effect. The All Africa Association for Small and Medium Enterprise (AAASME) led by its President Ambassador Kheswer Chandan Jankee and the Secretary- General Ebiekure Jasper Eradiri both endorsed the AfCFTA as it will boost intra-African trade, integration as well as accelerate economic growth of African Nations.
AAASME is calling on all other African Nations to append their respective Signatures as well as ratify the document before the January 2019 African Union meeting of Heads of Governments.
Earlier, the Assembly Decisions culminated into a number of rounds of trade negotiations that led to the signing of the Agreement Establishing the AfCFTA on 21 March 2018, in Kigali, Rwanda. To date, 49 AU Member States have signed the Agreement Establishing the AfCFTA, and seven have deposited instruments of ratification with the AUC. In the Decisions taken by the Heads of State and Government since the launch of the AfCFTA negotiations in June 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, there was always a call for national stakeholder consultations to be undertaken. This is repeated in many decisions including in the last Summit decision taken in Nouakchott, Mauritania, in July 2018.
The coming into effect of the Agreement Establishing the AfCFTA will mark a new development in Africa’s trade policy discourse. The remit of modern day trade policy is no more limited to the so-called ‘border measures’. Also included in the purview of international trade agreements that provide the boundaries and framework for national policies in developing countries are issues related to national industrial, science and technology, investment, competition, education, health, and a host of other policies. And their impact can be felt by diverse stakeholder groups such as businesses, consumers, farmers, industrialists, innovators, labor, and women. Hence the need for multi-stakeholder consultations and inclusive trade policy-making and implementation processes. Inclusive trade policy-making processes can significantly contribute to the empowering of people and persuade governments to develop and implement policies that use trade as a means to pursue economic equity and social justice. Given the scope of trade policy measures and commitments under international trade agreements as alluded to above, the number of relevant stakeholders is quite large.
With formation of the African Business Council, the support of the PanAfrican Chamber of Commerce and Industry and in the immediate future, the African Coalition of SMEs and Informal Economic operators as the foundation of the economic National and Regional activities; the agreement should be ready for implementation.