Regional Conference in Accra Aims to Enhance African SMEs’ Capacity for AfCFTA Acceleration

The Centre for Regional Integration in Africa (CRIA) and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) are set to host the 2023 Regional Integration Issues Forum (RIIF) conference for African Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Accra.

In partnership with the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), the conference will revolve around the theme: “Breaking Business Barriers for AfCFTA Acceleration.” The event, supported by Afreximbank and endorsed by the AfCFTA, is scheduled for September 27 to 28, 2023.

RIIF serves as a sensitization mechanism and platform for stakeholders engaged in regional integration and continental trade initiatives. The 2023 RIIF conference aims to raise awareness about the AfCFTA and its benefits for SMEs while strengthening their capacity to participate in intra-African trade.

Approximately 150 participants from countries including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, and Zimbabwe, among others, will attend. The participants represent SME owners, private sector executives, international and African trade experts, AfCFTA Secretariat representatives, regional business councils, academics, research institutions, think tanks, development institutions, financial institutions, African thought leaders, business influencers, and the media.

The keynote address will be delivered by the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, followed by interactive panel discussions, breakout sessions, networking opportunities, training sessions, and company site visits.

The 2023 RIIF SME conference aims to showcase practical ways in which the AfCFTA offers opportunities to mobilize resources, engage stakeholders, scale up businesses, promote inclusivity in intra-African trade, create jobs, expand national economies, and develop a sustainable continental market and ecosystem that effectively serves the needs of African people.

This conference aligns with the African Union’s theme for 2023: “Year of AfCFTA: Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation.”

Additional RIIF conferences and training initiatives are planned for other regions of the continent to build the capacity of business leaders to understand the AfCFTA and access cross-border intra-African trade opportunities. The first phase will begin in West Africa, where the Pan African Payment Settlement System (PAPSS) has been piloted to facilitate financial transactions across African borders and markets.

Professor Lehlohonolo Tlou, Executive Director of CRIA, expressed the importance of regional integration and intra-African trade, emphasizing the collaborative efforts needed for success. He stated that working together could create a prosperous future for all Africans.

Mr. M. Mamadou Biteye, Executive Secretary of ACBF, highlighted the vital role of capacity building in addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by the AfCFTA. He noted that without the necessary capacities, African countries and SMEs might struggle to fully benefit from the AfCFTA’s advantages.

ACBF’s Strategic Plan 2023-2027 identifies Trade as an Engine of Economic Development as a key impact area. The plan outlines targeted capacity-building support for governments, policymakers, institutions, private sector entities, SMEs, and individuals involved in the AfCFTA implementation process.

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