Between June 27th and July 1st, the Department of Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry, and Minerals (ETTIM) of the African Union Commission, in collaboration with the Africa Business Council (AFBC) and All Africa Association for SMEs (AAASME), hosted the first-ever African Union Annual SME Forum, in Cairo, Egypt. The Forum, themed: “Economic Empowerment of SMEs, Women and Youth Entrepreneurs to Realize Africa’s Industrialization in the context of the integrated market”
The International Finance Cooperation says Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) account for 90% of Africa’s business ecosystem, which makes them the continent’s primary providers of employment. Moreover, estimates by the World Economic Forum show the world’s workforce would increase by 910 million people in the period 2010 – 2050; over 90% of this increase will be in Africa, hence the need for the creation of productive employment opportunities.
Amb Kheswar Jankee, President of the All Africa Association for SMEs (AAASME) as well as the World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises (WASME), said unlocking the continent’s growth potential requires bridging the credit gap, strengthening of the SME value-chain and boosting productivity via technology adoption and adaptation. “Specific training workshops that will have a positive impact on African SMEs are most desirable owing to institutional and regulatory issues, the lack of access to finance, relatively low rates of business education and work experience, risk aversion,’’ Amb Jankee said.
Moreover, the Forum featured the validation of the AU Women and Youth Financial and Economic Inclusion (WYFEI 2030) Strategy, which proposes a set of innovative, resilient and inclusive recovery solutions to assist women and young entrepreneurs to climb the ladder of change towards financial and economic inclusion.
The maiden AU SME Forum, which seeks to promote, upskill and strategize for a better, more inclusive African SME sector to drive Africa’s industrialization, coincided with the United Nations MSME Day, celebrated on June 27. It seeks to create awareness about the contribution of small businesses to job creation, economic growth and increase awareness of their remarkable contributions to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).