The African Union Commission (AUC) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) have come together to solidify their ongoing partnership. The two groups signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, marking the beginning of a new chapter. 

The primary objective of this collaboration is to promote inclusive trade in Africa by integrating small enterprises into the regional economy, while also facilitating the sharing of trade information and market intelligence across the continent through the African Trade Observatory (ATO).

This renewed agreement is a response to the changing dynamics of the global economy and the ongoing regional integration process in Africa, which is firmly anchored by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). It reiterates the shared vision and joint efforts of the African Union and the lead UN agency focusing on small business development.

Several key areas have been outlined in the framework of cooperation. First and foremost, the focus will be on advancing the African Trade Observatory, an online tool created by ITC that offers real-time trade data to policymakers and businesses. 

Additionally, efforts will be made to promote crucial continental value chains to strengthen industrial development. The integration of small businesses into the regional trade process, enabling them to leverage the advantages of the AfCFTA, will also be prioritised. Lastly, the economic empowerment of women and young entrepreneurs will be mainstreamed to foster inclusive trade.

H.E Ambassador Albert Muchanga, Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry, Minerals (ETTIM), said, “The MOU cements the strong relationship that already exists between the two institutions. It will catalyse implementation of the African Union SME Strategy, operationalization of the ATO, protection of intellectual property, as well as promotion of private sector development in Africa.”

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, ITC Executive Director, also commented on the agreement, saying, “With this new agreement, our two institutions are stepping up our collaboration to deliver on our shared vision of an interconnected, industrial, and inclusive Africa. Together, we’ll continue to equip small businesses with the information and skills they need to integrate into regional and continental value chains – and get the visibility they need through a Made in Africa label – so they can earn more, create quality jobs, and transform societies.”

The African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government has declared ‘Acceleration of AfCFTA Implementation’ as the theme for 2023. As part of the ongoing efforts, the AUC and ITC will conduct training sessions for small businesses attending the Intra-African Trade Fair and AU Women in Processing Summit in Cairo, Egypt, in November. 

These sessions will focus on providing them with the necessary knowledge and skills to compete and transact in the African marketplace. Furthermore, the ATO database will be expanded, and enterprises will be trained on effectively utilising the tool for business expansion. ITC will also extend its support to the AU in fully operationalising its Enterprise Africa Network, which aims to strengthen the overall business ecosystem of the continent and facilitate smoother trade processes for businesses.