AU, ITC Agree to Empower Small Businesses to Unlock Intra-African Trade

ADDIS ABABA – The African Union Commission (AUC) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) have agreed to renew their collaboration in empowering small businesses to unlock intra-African trade.

The two institutions on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, marking the next chapter of their ongoing partnership.

Per the MoU, the two sides will foster inclusive trade in Africa by incorporating small enterprises into the regional economy, and promote the sharing of trade information and market intelligence across Africa through the African Trade Observatory, or ATO.

The renewed agreement, the ITC says, will also respond to changes in the global economy and the ongoing regional integration process in Africa underpinned by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

AU Commissioner for ETTIM Albert Muchanga and ITC’s Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton (L) signed the MoU in Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

Key areas highlighted in the framework of cooperation include advancing the African Trade Observatory, an online tool developed by ITC that provides policymakers and businesses with real-time trade data.

It also involves promoting key continental value chains to reinforce industrial development; integrating small businesses into the regional trade process to take advantage of the AfCFTA; and mainstreaming the economic empowerment of women and young entrepreneurs for inclusive trade.

“The MoU cements the strong relationship that already exists between the two institutions,” said Ambassador Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry, Minerals (ETTIM).

“It will catalyze implementation of the African Union SME Strategy, operationalization of the ATO, protection of intellectual property, as well as promotion of private sector development in Africa,” the Commissioner noted.

The AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government declared ‘Acceleration of AfCFTA Implementation’ as the theme of the year 2023.

Once in full operation, the AfCFTA will be the largest free trade area in the world, connecting 1.3 billion people across 55 African countries with a combined gross domestic product of $3.4 trillion.

ITC, a joint agency of the UN and WTO, says it will also support the AU in fully operationalizing its Enterprise Africa Network to strengthen the continent’s overall business ecosystem, to make it easier for businesses to trade.

“Together, we’ll continue to equip small businesses with the information and skills they need to integrate into regional and continental value chains – and get the visibility they need through a Made in Africa label – so they can earn more, create quality jobs and transform societies,” the ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton said.