African leaders have approved that trading should start on 1 January next year as scheduled on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement and requested African financial institutions to provide technical and financial support for its implementation.

“We call on women, youth, businesses, trade unions, civil society, cross border traders, the academia, the African Diaspora and other stakeholders to join us as governments in this historic endeavour of creating the Africa we want in line with the African Union Agenda 2063,” the leaders said in a declaration at the end of their 13th extraordinary summit of the member-states held virtually.

The leaders re-affirmed their resolve to deepen continental integration through the AfCFTA and commended the contribution of the African Ministers of Trade for the preparations toward the launch of trading on 1 January 2021.

Speaking while opening the meeting, the African Union Chairperson and South Africa’s President Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa said the commencement of trading would be one of the “most StanChart launches a ‘Women in Technology’ incubator programme African Union approves January 1 for commencement of trading under AfCFTA commitment to excellence is distinctively complimentary to Standard Chartered Bank’s values and brand promise Here for good. We look forward to all that will be accomplished through this initiative, including redefining entrepreneurship” Mrs. Nettey added.

Ms. Olga Arara-Kimani, Regional Head Corporate Affairs and Brand & Marketing, Standard Chartered Africa & Middle East said about launching Women In Technology in Ghana: “We have found that female techpreneurs face significant obstacles and structural inequalities in preventing them to scale their businesses, including financing and mentorship. With a thriving start-up scene, internet expressed gratitude to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) for providing technical support to the continental initiative.

In his own speech, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Wamkele Mene pledged to work with the ECA and the UN development Programme to prepare the AU Protocol on Women in Trade, saying that for AfCFTA to be inclusive and to ensure shared growth across the continent, women , young Africans and SMEs have to be at the heart of its implementation. Such a protocol will build upon the AfCFTA Framework Agreement that recognizes and the Women Entrepreneurs Transformation Programme.

Commenting on the initiative, Mrs. Mansa Nettey, Chief Executive, Standard Chartered Bank Ghana Limited said, “Empowering businesses founded or led by females is crucial to accelerating progress towards achieving our nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Women in Tech Incubator will provide an opportunity for women-owned or led businesses to thrive in a post COVID-19 digital world by tapping into the opportunities offered by technology adaptation.”

“Collaborating with Ashesi University’s GCIC is key due to their understanding of the Ghanaian entrepreneurial ecosystem, expertise and significant milestones” in the continental integration project and the clearest affirmation yet that Africa is determined to take charge of its own destiny. Mr. Ramaphosa described the AfCFTA as the great edifice that holds Africa’s collective dreams and aspirations for an integrated and prosperous continent.

“The AfCFTA will boost intra-African trade, it will promote industrialization and competitiveness and contribute to job creation, and it will unleash regional value chains that will facilitate Africa’s meaningful integration into the global economy,” he said.

According to him, the AfCFTA should be used to advance the empowerment of Africa’s women, which is one of the most important objectives of continental body’s Agenda 2063 as improving women’s access to trade opportunities not only facilitates economic freedom for women, but also expands the productive capacity of countries.

He called on the AU to consider a Protocol on Women in Trade to facilitate greater trade opportunities for women, and to focus on removing non-tariff barriers to trade. President Ramaphosa also penetration at almost 50% and the country having the highest rate of women-owned businesses globally, we believe that the Women in Tech Programme will plug the gap for female techpreneurs looking to grow their business at scale and foster a stronger and more dynamic startup ecosystem in Ghana.”

Launched in 2014 in New York, Standard Chartered Bank’s WiT is now a global programme. In 2017 the first WIT incubator was launched in the Africa and Middle East region, with Kenya being the first market and have subsequently rolled it out in other key markets including Nigeria, UAE, Pakistan, Bahrain and Zambia with Ghana being the 7th market.

In three years, the Bank has provided over US$500,000 to various programme cohorts in these markets along with financial backing, Standard Chartered also provides training, mentoring and access to a wider network of other companies for these entrepreneurs. gender equality as an explicit objective.

Mr. Mene also joined some of the leaders to acknowledge the technical assistance provided member states by the ECA in the development of their National AfCFTA strategies.

The Director of ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division, Mr. Stephen Karingi, welcomed the outcomes of the summit saying, “The inclusion of health and education among the priority services sectors for liberalization under the AfCFTA in the light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have received a boost from the AfCFTA Champion, President Issoufou of Niger.”

Credit: Business 24