Youths See Opportunity in AfCFTA to Boost Africa’s Trade 

ADDIS ABABA –  The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is an opportunity for young people to accelerate Africa’s industrialization and economic transformation through entrepreneurship, youths say, calling for an enabling policy framework.

Through its Youth Protocol, the AfCFTA recognizes that young people can play a critical role in the achievement of the free trade zone by initiating youth-led initiatives in agriculture, financial technology, IT, and the creative industry.

However, they note that across the youth-dominant trade areas critical to the AfCFTA, the challenges of infrastructure gap, lack of access to modern technologies, funding, electricity, and broadband internet keep the youth on the sidelines of the free trade area.

Nine young mentees who have completed RITD’s “Youth for AfCFTA Mentorship Programme”, presented their final assignment to senior staff in the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in a meeting held virtually earlier this week.

The participants highlighted that the AfCFTA presented huge entrepreneurship opportunities for them but that governments need to implement supportive policies and investments to ensure their participation.

Mie Vedel-Joergensen, Associate Expert at the ECA. said mentees of the “Youth for AfCFTA Mentorship Programme” are winners of a competition launched in March 2022 which led to the mentorship program in ECA. 

The competition with the topic; ‘The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): What is in it for young Africans?’ was aimed to break information asymmetry among youth on the AfCFTA and promote a bottom-up approach to policy formulation and implementation.

Jessica Debby Ndjadila, a mentee of the Essay group, noted that Africa’s youth understood the technology enablers of the free trade area such as Information Technology, supply chain management, and financial technology.

“African governments should prioritize intellectual property rights protection,” Ndjadila said, calling for fiscal policies to drive entrepreneurs into content distribution and the democratization of access to broadband connectivity.

Africa also needs to operationalize the  Pan African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), a centralized payment and settlement system for intra-African trade in goods and services developed in  2022.

Another group of youth developed an infographic to highlight the benefits of gender inclusion in the AfCFTA. 

Noting that Sub-Saharan Africa was losing an average of $95 billion annually as a result of gender inequality, the youth felt that investment in mobile and digital solutions can bridge the gender gap in Africa where the proportion of women using the internet was 25% lower than men.

“Implementation of the AfCFTA would increase employment opportunities and wages for unskilled workers and help close the gender wage gap,” said Richard Muraya, a youth whose group developed an infographic highlighting the opportunity cost of gender inclusion in the AfCFTA.