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EU pledges €74 mln support for SMEs in Africa

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The European Union (EU) has pledged €74 million to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to support small medium enterprises (SMEs), said the Secretary General of the All Africa Association for Small and Medium Enterprises (AAASME), Ebiekure Eradiri.

He made the disclosure at the end of a three-day micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) consultation on the AfCFTA in Dakar, organized by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and AUNIQUEI Communication Company, with financial support from the EU.

”I hope this information can help ignite your commitment towards ensuring that the AfCFTA does not fail,” said Eradiri who sought the continent’s patronage for the SMEs’ goods and services.

“Let us build Africa, grow Africa, and buy Africa,” he said.

The goal of the hybrid forum was to give an insight into the challenges the AfCFTA poses to the MSMEs, find solutions to them, and encourage them to build networks across the continent.

On the issue of improving skills in the sector, Eradiri said the enterprises should scale up their skills and competences to be in tune with present realities.

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In this regard, he said the AAASME intended to set up entrepreneurship and technology parks across Africa to help accelerate the pace of innovation on the continent.

MSMEs employ the most people, occupy the biggest position in making contribution to countries’ gross domestic product, and are a force for social, economic, and political stability.

The AfCFTA which commenced operation on 1 January is set to create the biggest free trade area in the world with a market of more than 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$2.5 trillion.

The bloc has immense opportunities for increasing intra-regional trade, enhancing production, promoting economies of scale, creating jobs, raising incomes and improving the standard of living of the African people.

In their recommendations at the end of the consultation, participants said to harness the benefits of AfCFTA, governments should incentivize the MSMEs by buying their goods and services while giving them tax incentives to make them more competitive.

To leverage Africa’s rich human assets in the AfCFTA, the needs and priorities of women and youth must also be reflected in the frameworks being established.

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