Addis Ababa(Ethiopia Today) January 17/2023:- 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
At an online presentation meeting organized by the Regional Integration and Trade
Division (RITD) of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), nine young mentees who
have completed RITD’s “Youth for AfCFTA Mentorship Programme”, presented their final
assignment to senior staff in ECA.
The youth participants highlighted that the AfCFTA presented huge entrepreneurship
opportunities for them but that governments need to implement supportive policies and
investment to ensure their participation.
Associate Expert in Economic Affairs, Market Institutions Section of the Regional
Integration and Trade Division (RITD) at the ECA, Mie Vedel-Joergensen said mentees of
the “Youth for AfCFTA Mentorship Programme” are winners of a competition launched in
March 2022 which led to the mentorship programme in ECA.
The competition with the topic; “The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): What
is in it for young Africans?” was developed by the Youth Alliance for Leadership and
Development in Africa (YALDA) in collaboration with the AfCFTA Secretariat, Afreximbank,
the International Trade Centre (ITC), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and ECA.
The competition encouraged participants to develop essays, infographics or animation to
communicate the potential impact of the AfCFTA on youth in Africa.
According to YALDA, the competition aimed to break information asymmetry among
youth on the AfCFTA and promote a bottom-up approach to the policy formulation and
implementation by harnessing innovative youth-driven solutions that will contribute to
active youth engagement in the popularization of the AfCFTA.
Noting that young people can influence policy decisions in favour of the AfCFTA in
addition to providing labour, Jessica Debby Ndjadila, mentee of the Essay group, said
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.
It is also said that Sub Saharan Africa was losing an average of 95 billion USD 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 percent 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.
The Director of Regional Integration and Trade Division at ECA, Stephen Karingi, said
young people fully understand what the AfCFTA is all about and their information
products should be promoted in giving policymakers the right narrative about the free
According to ENA, youth-dominant trade areas believed to be 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.