African CEOs need more information to make AfCFTA succeed

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According to the Africa CEO Trade survey report published by the Pan-African Private Sector Trade & Investment Committee (PAFTRAC), executives and business owners across the continent struggle to find business information the African Continental Free Trade Agreement(AfCFTA).

For the third year running, the Pan-African Private Sector Trade and Investment Committee (PAFTRAC) have partnered with African Business magazine for the Africa CEO Trade Survey.

The survey aims to provide the African private sector with a platform to identify key issues related to the African trade environment and inform trade policy at the continental and regional level.

The Africa CEO Trade Survey results were discussed at a recent trade policy webinar by a panel including the AfCFTA secretariat, Google, Africa Business Council and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation.

Cynthia Gnassingbe-Essonam, Senior Advisor at the Office of the Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, thanked PAFTRAC and its partners stating the importance of the Africa CEO Trade Survey reports saying that they constitute “a blueprint for the implementation of the AfCFTA, as it provides real on the ground information as to what are the constraints to the private sector to fully take advantage of the AfCFTA.”

Speaking on the Survey results Prof. Patrick Utomi, Chairperson of PAFTRAC, said “The results of our survey are clear. Firstly, there is huge support for the AfCFTA and the potential benefits that it could bring. Business leaders are generally optimistic that the free trade area will benefit both their own companies and African economies more generally.”

Pren-Tsilya Boa-Guehe, Government Affairs Director for Africa, Google, and one of the private sector representatives on the panel, echoed the optimism expressed on the survey results of the report especially on the potential of the AfCFTA, and saying that on the tech sector “Over the next 5 years, Africa’s internet economy is poised to reach $180 bn USD.”

One of the key constraints to exports highlighted by respondents was the lack of easily accessible information on the details of the AfCFTA, potential markets, business opportunities and trading partners.

“Over 50 per cent of respondents have difficulty accessing useful information on the AfCFTA”, explained Prof Utomi.

“This percentage increases when we look specifically to those companies that are SMEs, which are the most important drivers of trade”

Increasing Intra-African trade has the potential to transform African economies by supporting manufacturing and reducing reliance on the export of. To realise this potential and following a 72-page analysis of Africa’s most comprehensive trade survey, PAFTRAC calls out for the following policy recommendations:
With SMEs dominating Africa’s trading landscape it is imperative to avail trade information and market opportunities as well trade facilitation services
Fully functioning one-stop shops for traders will enable businesses, particularly SMEs, to benefit from AfCFTA
Investments in trade enabling infrastructure, particularly road infrastructure, is key to facilitating intra-African trade in the immediate and short term
Facilitate the formalization of ICBT through easing cross border payments and customs facilitation through the value chains from producers to large
Facilitate access to credit and long-term financing mechanisms
Facilitate the free movement of people to unlock trade potential and opportunities
Build SME capacity through export support services including complying with quality standards, packaging requirements and customs procedures

This year, over 800 executives active in the continent, from 46 countries in Africa, responded to the Africa CEO Trade Survey. The survey provided a unique insight into the challenges and opportunities that exist in trading in Africa and serves as the leading barometer of private sector sentiment on African trade and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

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