By Dambuza Tanatsiwa
Cape Town, South Africa – The AfCFTA Business Forum kicked off in Cape Town, South Africa yesterday bringing together heads of state, ministers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, civil society, and media to explore trade and investment opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The event is co-organized by the AfCFTA Secretariat and the Government of South Africa under the auspices of President Cyril Ramaphosa and will run until April 18, 2023.
The forum focuses on the AfCFTA priority sectors, including agro-processing, automotive, pharmaceuticals, transportation and logistics, and digital trade.
Its aim is to provide a platform for public-private engagements among businesses and governments to unlock trade and investment opportunities in Africa.
One of the highlights of the forum was the keynote speech by Her Excellence Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, the CEO of AUDA-NEPAD, who highlighted the importance of investing in 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) and integrating it into the manufacturing industries.
She also proposed introducing 4IR to schools to help Africa tap into its potential, a key step towards the successful implementation of the AfCFTA.
The African Development Bank also gave a presentation on its commitment to enhancing cross-border trade and development in Africa.
The bank is investing in OSBPs (One Stop Border Posts), road infrastructure, resources for landlocked countries, and digital economy and 4IR initiatives.
Another highlight of the forum was the announcement by Afreximbank President Prof. Oramah of a historic agreement with AfCFTA to manage the Base Fund of the AfCFTA Adjustment Fund.
This agreement is a game-changer for Africa’s trade and development.
The African Union Commission stated how AfCFTA creates a platform for the private sector to trade across Africa with various tools such as PAPSS (Pan-African Payment and Settlement System), tariff book, adjustment fund, dispute settlement mechanism, Africa trade observatory, Online Tariff Negotiation Portal, among others.
His Excellence Mene Wamkele, the Secretary-General of AfCFTA, also revealed that in May, AfCFTA will finalize two crucial protocols for the future of Africa: one on digital trade to foster digital and financial inclusion and innovation, and one on women and youth in trade to empower them as drivers of growth and development.
The forum also featured an exciting opportunity for businesses and investors to pitch their ideas and projects to a panel of potential investors and business leaders. This provided an opportunity for companies and entrepreneurs to showcase their innovative projects and attract investment, partnerships, and mentorship.
The AfCFTA Business Forum is a landmark event as it is the first business forum to take place after the launch of the guided trade initiative.
This means that the instruments necessary for trading under the AfCFTA have already been put into place and are ready to be utilized.
The forum aims to create awareness of the current business and investment opportunities in the AfCFTA among Africa’s business community and connect businesses to funding opportunities for AfCFTA value chains.
The forum is expected to produce concrete outcomes that will contribute to accelerating the implementation of the AfCFTA and activating trade and investments in Africa.
It also aims to set up structures through the Secretariat that will serve as a private sector engagement platform for continued consultations on private sector needs in the implementation of the AfCFTA.
The AfCFTA Business Forum is undoubtedly an essential step towards unlocking the trade and investment potential of the African continent.