On 12 November 2020, the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) organized a global Pre-iBootcamp Virtual Summit, in partnership with the International Trade Centre (ITC), African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). This year the theme was Beyond COVID-19: Leveraging the Benefits of the AfCFTA to Spur Africa’s Growth. The summit mobilized industry leaders and hundreds of youth entrepreneurs from across the continent, in a series of webinars, workshops and online interviews creating a knowledge-sharing platform.

What was most exciting about this summit is that it was organized for youth, by youth! We supported YALDA in connecting with exciting youth entrepreneurs from the Ye! Community including Gilbert Mwale and Jessca Anuna, to share their youth perspective on how Africa’s youth can benefit from the AfCFTA!

Additionally, we organized a workshop with experts from ITC and YALDA on how youth can take advantage of the world’s largest free trade area!

And at midday, we heard from ITC’s Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Dorothy Tembo:

“Africa’s growth and development rests in the hands of the current and subsequent generations of youth, which is why it is so important to foster the talent of these young individuals and provide them with the right opportunities to manifest their entrepreneurial hopes and dreams. From Cairo to Cape Town, the continent is brimming with incredibly bright young entrepreneurs. Unlocking the potential of these entrepreneurs is vital for Africa’s future, as the private sector is a key driver of economic growth.”

Just in case you missed all the excitement of the Summit, here are some highlights and key takeaways.

What exactly is the AfCFTA and how can youth benefit from it?

Many of the day’s discussions focused on how to make the AfCFTA work for young people and SMEs- the economic drivers of growth on the continent.

During the workshop with experts from both ITC and YALDA, David Cordobes and Aissatou Diallo, lead expert on AfCFTA at ITC, shed light on the following aspects.

  • The objectives of AfCFTA is to create a single market for goods, services, facilitated by free movement of persons, capital and investment
  • Currently, 54 countries have signed the AfCFTA
  • Expected impact of AfCFTA

  1. Integrated market for African products, which allows the producers can benefit from the economies of scale;
  2. Access to cheaper imported products from other African countries;
  3. Better allocation of resources and faster economic and trade growth;
  4. Stimulation of structural transformation from resource and low technology based to more diversified knowledge based economies;
  5. Facilitation of intra-Africa and external direct capital flows to African countries; and
  6. Cooperation in technology transfer, innovation, investment and continent-wide infrastructure development.
  • The AfCFTA and youth

  1. Challenges and opportunities: Despite the challenges in access to decent work, quality education,  financial investment and enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem, Africa can still leverage the opportunities such as AfCFTA to benefit youth demographic dividend;
  2. Sectors with the most potential to provide opportunities for youth are: Manufacturing, Agriculture, Services, and E-commerce;
  3. ITC and its partners have been collaborating in the following areas to ensure the participation and benefits of youth in AfCFTA:
  • Sensitize youth to the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA, with improved complementary measures for youth to take advantages;
  • Advocate for the integration and empowerment of youth through private- public dialogues;
  • Create special financial products to facilitate cross-border trade for young entrepreneurs;
  • Strengthen digital trade by investing in the continent’s digital infrastructure

Highlights from Ye! youth entrepreneurs

  • Triumphant return of Hon. Routouang Mohamed Ndonga Christian, former Ye! Ambassador to Chad, and current Minister of Youth and Sport in Chad, who addressed the opportunities and challenges of youth economic development in Chad and beyond.
  • Jessica Anuna, Founder of Klasha, shared her experience and insights about the current status of digital infrastructure and connectivity on the continent and the critical need to accelerate the digitalization process for businesses on the continent to take advantage of opportunities.
  • Gilbert Mwale, Founder of eMsika, spoke from his own experience on how youth-run businesses can leverage the AfCFTA in resuscitating the supply chain within Africa. His key takeaway for policy makers, “let the SMEs breath,” requesting that governments consider tax breaks or other grace periods for young businesses to get off the ground.
  • Jariatou Jallow, CEO of Yonima Errands Runner, stood out among more than 300 applications and won her place as a finalist in the pitching competition where she shared how her delivery service is simplifying running errands in the Gambia.

Looking towards the future

An innovative, empowered and connected Africa is key to fully realizing the full benefits of the African Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). As the ‘youngest’ continent, African youth can and should develop the skill sets required by tomorrow’s digitized world as well as technology-based solutions. Leveraging the full breadth of a single continent-wide trade area, all stakeholders, including the youth, should work together to address key socio-economic challenges in Africa, in order for the African youth and their businesses to lead the way in kick-staring economic growth in their countries.

To watch the full recording of the Summit, click here.

If you are interested to learn more about the AfCFTA and join a network of youth entrepreneurs and investors from Africa, create your Ye! profile here and start reaching out!

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