Paftrac chairperson Professor Patrick Utomi
The results of the third yearly Africa CEO Trade Survey, run by the Pan-African Private Sector Trade and Investment Committee (Paftrac) and African Business magazine have shown “huge support” for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the potential benefits that it could bring, says Paftrac chairperson Professor Patrick Utomi.
“The results of our survey are clear. Business leaders are generally optimistic that the free trade area will benefit both their own companies and African economies more generally,” he says.
The survey aims to provide the African private sector with a platform to identify key issues related to the African trade environment and inform trade policy at the continental and regional level.
The Africa CEO Trade Survey results were discussed at a recent trade policy webinar by a panel including the AfCFTA secretariat, Google, Africa Business Council and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation.
AfCFTA secretariat secretary general office senior adviser Cynthia Gnassingbe-Essonam said during the webinar that the Africa CEO Trade Survey reports constitute “a blueprint for the implementation of the AfCFTA, as it provides real on-the-ground information as to what are the constraints to the private sector to fully take advantage of the AfCFTA.”
Google government affairs director for Africa Pren-Tsilya Boa-Guehe – one of the private sector representatives on the panel – echoed the optimism expressed in the survey results of the report, especially on the potential of the AfCFTA, and noting how Africa’s Internet economy is poised to reach $180-billion over the next five years.
However, one of the key constraints to exports highlighted by respondents in the survey was the lack of easily accessible information on the details of the AfCFTA, potential markets, business opportunities and trading partners.
“Over 50% of respondents have difficulty accessing useful information on the AfCFTA. This percentage increases when we look specifically to those companies that are small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are the most important drivers of trade,” Utomi says.
According to Paftrac, increasing intra-African trade has the potential to transform African economies by supporting manufacturing and reducing reliance on exports.
To realise this potential and following a 72-page analysis of the comprehensive trade survey, Paftrac is calling for several policy adjustments.
With SMEs dominating Africa’s trading landscape, Paftrac believes it is imperative to avail trade information and market opportunities, as well trade facilitation services.
Fully functioning one-stop shops for traders should also be established to enable businesses, particularly SMEs, to benefit from AfCFTA.
Meanwhile, investments in trade-enabling infrastructure, particularly road infrastructure, would be key to facilitating intra-African trade in the immediate and short term.
Paftrac is also calling for the facilitation of the formalisation of informal cross-border trade through the easing of cross border payments, as well as customs facilitation through the value chains.
It is also calling for the facilitation of access to credit and long-term financing mechanisms, along with the free movement of people to unlock trade potential and opportunities.
Finally, Paftrac is calling for the building of SME capacity through export support services, including complying with quality standards, packaging requirements and customs procedures.
This year, more than 800 active executives from 46 countries in Africa responded to the Africa CEO Trade Survey. The survey provided insight into the challenges and opportunities that exist in trading in Africa and serves as a barometer of private sector sentiment on African trade and the AfCFTA.