Trade Across Africa: AfCFTA Secretariat Unveils New App For Businesses

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By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja

Innovators and SMEs in Africa will now enjoy a global one-stop-technology platform from the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat that will link them to possible sponsors for their innovative projects that can boost trade across the continent.
The platform dubbed AfCFTA App, will issue a mark of identity to every organization or businesses interested in benefiting from AfCFTA to ease ways of doing business and getting partnerships across Africa, export and import goods under the low duty regime, and satisfy some “know-your-customer” requirements at banks and financial institutions. The app will go live on January 1.

According to a statement signed by the Secretary-General, Francis Mangeni, this comes barely two weeks to the African Union Heads of State summit slated for December 5, 2020 that will take many critical decisions about positioning AfCFTA as the next big thing in the world’s economy. The app is the enabler of the broader AfCFTA Vision effort, an AU initiative in partnership with Sankoree Institute, an affiliate of AfroChampions. The two partners intend to propel AfCFTA to success with the backing of the continent’s development finance institutions. 
“It is true that Africa has seen a number of trade agreements at regional level, but AfCFTA is different because it is being set up as the ultimate program to fulfil the dreams of the Founders of the African Union: a truly single market big and strong enough to compete for the biggest of global opportunities. The quick launch of the AfCFTA group of apps and the Vision Challenge to resource our innovators and entrepreneurs with the key instruments to drive trade on the continent shows the unique passion being invested in this enterprise,” said Francis Mangeni, Director of Trade Promotion and Programs at the Accra-based AfCFTA Secretariat. AfCFTA is the world’s largest trade block with a membership of 54 out of the 55 African Union nations. 
Once fully operational, economists say AfCFTA would considerably expand intra-Africa trade whilst helping the continent move up the value chain in multiple industries, helping achieve the vision of Agenda 2063 of a united, prosperous, continent relating on equal footing with its peers on the global stage. 
To fulfil these expectations, however, entrepreneurs and innovators are key. The AfCFTA Vision Challenge, enabled by the AfCFTA App, shall empower innovators to present their compelling and persuasive ideas for potential investment. 
Contestants only have to register for an AfCFTA number at no cost at www.afcfta.app and then submit their entry through the online portal (https://www.afcfta.blog/challenge) to participate. 
Major African DFIs and other visionary financial institutions such as TDB, Africa50, AfDB, AFC, Equity Bank, Ecobank and Afreximbank are being coopted as the “institutional jury” for the AfCFTA Vision Challenge. 
Compelling solutions to challenges posed by some of Africa’s foremost political leaders, and analysed by leading continental thinkers, in eight identified issue areas submitted ahead of the two deadlines of November 30 and December 22, stand a chance of securing syndicated investment from these leading institutions.
“Building on our AVRIVA initiative (www.avriva.org) in partnership with the Africa Union’s Open Corridors Initiative, we are opening a new chapter in the continental economic integration process,” said Paulo Gomes, co-Chairman of AfroChampions, “one in which broad alliances powered by technology shall completely change Africa’s reputation for signing agreements that it struggles to execute.”
The role of the AfCFTA Secretariat is to coordinate capacity that already exists on the continent in order to generate the necessary momentum. Digital technology can play a critical role in this quest due to its levelling function and exponential network creation ability.
Digital technology has become one of the most efficient ways to bring large but marginalised communities like Small, Medium & Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), youth, women and the informal sector into the productive sectors of an integrated African company.
The partners are of the view that all the components of the AfCFTA Vision Initiative work seamlessly together to boost the chances of a spectacularly successful AfCFTA rollout.  
The AfCFTA Secretariat is a creation of the AfCFTA Agreement tasked with the responsibility of coordinating the successful implementation of the Agreement.
The Secretariat operates as an autonomous organ of the African Union charged with implementing the decisions of the higher organs of the body in respect of the wide array of areas covered by the Agreement, ranging from industrialisation to lntellectual Property, and from trade in professional services to harmonisation of standards for manufactured goods. 

An affiliate of the AfroChampions Initiative and other leading pan-African institutions, the Sankoree Institute brings together many of Africa’s most passionate and eminent leaders, thinkers and doers to reimagine all the best paths to a strong, globally influential, integrated, and prosperous Africa.
 Sankoree leads the charge in experimentation, exploration, prototyping and execution of the best ideas resulting from robust, rigorous, and action-oriented dialogue, analysis and design-thinking. 

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