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The latest Standard Bank Top Women Masterclass takes a deep dive into African Trade and Investment. African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the strategic framework for delivering on Africa’s goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity. However, much surrounding this innovative framework is still to be learned in order to push for economic growth and enhance intra-Africa trade relations.
Currently Africa accounts for just 2% of global trade. Growing its share of economic activity has the potential to empower small business enterprises, and effectively lift 30 million people out of poverty. This episode of the Standard Bank Top Women Masterclass is geared towards exploring all the AfCFTA, looking at what AfCFTA means for your business. Important questions will be answered surrounding ways that the AfCFTA agreement is going to change trade within Africa, its impact on growing business and reducing poverty, and how to harness lessons learnt from the European Union in AfCFTA.
Hosted by Babalwa Mkobeni, Standard Bank Top Women Content and Brand Manager, the Masterclass included Yavi Madurai, Executive Director PABWA South Africa, Linda Chepkwony, Regional and Continental Coordinator for Youth in AfCFTA, and Bernadette Colborne, Head: Trade and Supply Chain Finance, Product Management, Business and Commercial Banking at Standard Bank.
Key takeaways from this Masterclass included:
- AfCFTA is currently a highly-debated, hot topic of discussion all over the world, especially in Africa. We are all still trying to figure out the protocols and finer details before it becomes fully operational, and there is a long journey ahead.
- We need to be patient and remain active agents of change as this is our last chance to achieve self-sustainability so we don’t have to keep relying heavily on trade with other continents.
- Africa is our home, and so it is important that we drive the growth of our home. In this regard, we must accelerate the growth of our small businesses, especially, in order to create jobs and lift citizens out of poverty.
- SMMEs can seize multiple opportunities through this framework. The youth and women need better access to liquidity. More funding is needed for small youth-owned and women-owned businesses.
- The truth is that there is no point to the AfCFTA Agreement unless we all commit to it. This is why enablement and access will play a pivotal role in ensuring its success. We must zoom in on specific sectors that need assistance with access to bigger markets.
- Intra-Africa Trade currently stands at 18% in comparison to Intra-EU (70%) and Intra-Asia (65-68%). This is a shocking statistic and we need to work towards capacitating Africans from within to enable economic transformation.
- Our continent is rich with agricultural produce! With cross-border trade we can get our produce all across the world – trade with each other, inside Africa, is essential.
- AfCFTA’s Zero-rated tariffs will be very beneficial for businesses in the private sector as there will be access provided to new markets. Women in business will also benefit from this as it opens up new networking opportunities, both locally and internationally.
- All African countries are at a different stage of readiness right now. Business owners need to start equipping themselves for the AfCFTA Agreement already. Look at your product and check if it falls on the list of 4000+ products that are deemed trade-ready by AfCFTA. Zoom in on the Rules of Origin (are they made on the continent?), and improve your compliance.
- Keep yourself in the know: empower yourself by seeking out relevant information through masterclasses, online forums, social media etc. Researching current updates on the AfCFTA is important and will stand you in good stead – take the initiative.
Yavi Madurai is known for having an incredibly multifaceted career, taking on roles such as Corporate Strategist, International Trade Specialist, Media Analyst, Government Advisor, as well as being an activist for economic gender parity and technology equality. Yavi describes herself as quite the ‘Afro-Optimist’. She is the founder of 3 impact organisations which focus on the country (I AM South African); the continent (PABWA); and the planet/global (TechEqual)’ – all of which are contributing towards achieving the SDG’s by 2030. On any given day, she can be found making deals, empowering Africans, innovating in the tech world, and changing the narrative of Africa, while being a mom of a teenage global activist & wife to a Banker.
Born and bred in KwaZulu Natal, Durban, Bernadette Colborne studied Customer Relationship Management, Sales and Marketing and Business Management. She represented Standard Bank at the first DTI SA/New York Trade fair as well as accompanied the DTI to Russia on a Trade Mission. Bernadette Colborne is a certified ICC Trade Specialist which encompasses, Trade instruments, risk, compliance, and the like. She is also the Chair of ICC SA Trade Working Group and a member of the ICC SA Council. She is the Head Trade Product and Client Experience – Financial Institutions, and is also currently the Head of Trade and Supply Chain Finance.
Linda Chepkwony is the Regional and Continental Coordinator for Youth in AfCFTA, advocating on the inclusion and participation by the Youth, Cross Border Traders and Women of Africa on AfCFTA for Economic empowerment and Employment Creation. She is a Youth leader from Kenya who was named 100 most influential young Kenyans 2020 by Avance Media. Linda has been nominated for and won various awards due to her exemplary work in her community such as Tallberg Elliason, Zuri Awards,Young African Leader Awards, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and World Bank social inclusion heroes to name a few. Her hope is that the youth of Africa will use their platforms to tell positive stories about Africa by being voluntary, ambassadors work hard to transform their continent by taking advantage of AfCFTA.
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