By Mosa Mojonothoane
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has implored youth organizations to intensify advocacy for inclusion of youth in African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation.
The women and youth in Africa are said to constitute the larger part of the 80 percent of the informal business sector in Africa, which leaves them prone to informal trading hazards, especially in between borders.
To alleviate the challenges and aid to secure 20 to 70 percent of jobs provided by this sector, Mie Vedel-Jeorgensen from UNECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division outlined some key procedures that can also aid to accelerate the youth inclusion in the AfCFTA implementation during the visual regional dialogue on Thursday.
These she said are; Enabling digital environment, skills training and free movement of persons, digitization of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), digitization of customs procedures to reduce discrimination, fostering innovation and participation in the green economy and reviewing protocol on women and youth trade.
Capacity building opportunities available for youth across the African continent under UNECA flagship include advocacy training and support to youth associations on the AfCFTA, Training of business associations on youth inclusion in AfCFTA, investment and export under the AfCFTA training of youth-led SMEs, Youth and AfCFTA webinars and a Mentorship programme.
From Zimbabwe Institute for African Integration, the Co-founder and Organizing Secretary Tanatsiwa Dambuza revealed that youth organizations in different countries have shown their zeal to accelerate the implementation of the AfCFTA through different strategies. “These include awareness raising and increasing campaigns, capacity-building-trainings, documentaries, blogging, reports, online discussions via webinars, Twitter spaces etc, conferences, workshops, export readiness training, partnerships, creation of online markets etc,” Dambuza mentioned.
This being the case, Lesotho is challenged as it remains far back in these efforts.
He continued that the strategies have largely been successful as the lobby by youth, and women organisations resulted in the recognition of youth and women as the engine of the AfCFTA successful implementation, adding that the efforts led to the launch of negotiations on the protocol on youth and women in trade.
Information from the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism show that the AfCFTA is a strategic agreement that will provide a huge market for Lesotho`s products, which Lesotho ratified in December, 2020 in pursuit of the Government’s medium-term goals (NSDP II2018/19-2023/24) to diversify export markets and products.
Through this agreement, Lesotho seeks to secure the second largest market for local products besides United States of America, to secure a large and dynamic market with a combined population of 1,3 billion and GDP of US$3.4 billion for Lesotho`s exports, enable Lesotho`s importers and manufacturers to source inputs competitively from other African countries and enable smooth trading of local Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with their counterparts within the AfCFTA while simultaneously providing prospects for the growth of Lesotho`s private sector.
At the national level, a lot still needs to be done in terms of: Educating and sensitising MSMEs on opportunities that this Agreement provides and creating an enabling environment to assist SMMEs in effectively doing business across the continent.
“However, given that MSMEs in Lesotho are mostly owned by women and the youth, the ministry facilitated establishment of the Businesswomen Platform focusing on building relations with businesses in the Eastern and Western Africa Regions – there has been two online exhibitions,” notes the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourismreview document.
Among the top benefits of AfCFTA it will help bring together a single and large market of more than 1.2 billion people, of goods and services with the movement of people and investments, Create better terms of trade which will enhance global export earnings, Capture trade in services which will drive competitiveness, Lower prices for consumers because of increased competition, Create stronger partnerships between public and private actors which will enable trade expansion, Result in more foreign exchange earnings through increased market access, Develop industry and create jobs, Bring a greater choice of goods and thus Reduce general poverty while Increasing intra-African trade which will boost revenues and livelihoods.