ITC, African Union Commission partner to make African small business voice heard


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(Addis Ababa/Geneva) – The African Union Commission (AUC) and The International Trade Centre (ITC), a United Nations Agency, unite to advance the priorities of African micro, small, and medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) at the 2nd annual African Union MSME Forum.

Over 150 participating MSMEs from across the continent and a range of sectors (such as agriculture, cosmetics, fintech and fashion) benefited from a comprehensive programme, including trainings, a pitching bootcamp and competition, information sessions and an opportunity to network and collaborate in one African Market.

To promote the voice of MSMEs, the AUC built on previous collaborations with ITC which advocate for the priorities of African small businesses in trade policy and enhance Africa’s share in global trade, which currently still stands at 2%.

Almost 20 directors in charge of MSMEs on the continent gathered to learn about the World Trade Organization (WTO) MSME Informal Working Group (IWG), which sets the multilateral agenda for small businesses in the international trading sphere. Currently, only four of 44 African WTO members participate in this Group. Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya presented their motivations and experiences as two of these four members, while Directors brainstormed to identify common priorities for African MSMEs.

In his welcoming remarks, H.E Ambassador Albert Muchanga, Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry, and Minerals, underscored the contribution of start-ups to economic growth and job creation, while emphasizing the need for governments and stakeholders to support and nurture the start-up ecosystem: ‘In 2017, 88 WTO Members signed a statement at the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference declaring their intention to create an Informal Working Group on MSMEs. This Working Group is meant to explore ways in which WTO Members could better support MSMEs’ participation in global trade. Only four of the 55 African countries are currently part of the Group. I encourage more African countries to join the WTO Informal Working Group on MSMEs.’

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, ITC Executive Director said, ‘ITC is deeply honoured to work hand in hand with the AUC to connect MSME Directors from Africa to Missions in Geneva to advance African priorities at the WTO. This joint initiative at the multilateral level will help consolidate our cooperation to foster MSME competitiveness at the regional level through the African Trade Observatory and the Enterprise Africa Network’.

‘The IWG’s discussion topics, such as access to finance, legal certainty, access to information, and meeting demand capacity, are of the utmost interest to Côte d’Ivoire,’ said Guillaume Seka, Counsellor for Commercial Affairs at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva. ‘It was obvious for Côte d’Ivoire to become a member. We encourage other countries to join us! The more of us there are, the more the priorities of African MSMEs will be reflected.’

The collaboration between the African Union Commission and ITC at the Forum is underscored by a recently renewed Memorandum of Understanding. The cooperation agreement is implemented through ITC’s One Trade Africa Programme that provides a comprehensive support package to small businesses to benefit from Africa’s continental integration process underpinned by the AfCFTA.