By Ndey Sowe
Dr. Isatou Touray, the Vice President of The Gambia, on Wednesday, 15 December presided over a high-level policy workshop on mainstreaming Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation in the Gambia.
Held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center in Bijilo, the workshop was organized by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).
The objective of the workshop was to bring together high-level decision-makers to discuss and explore possible options and come up with strategic recommendations to address the potential challenges of the AfCFTA and how Gambian MSMEs can benefit from the agreement. The workshop was also meant to explore good practice on leveraging AfCFTA for enhanced participation of Gambian MSMEs in intra-African trade.
The AfCFTA is a free trade area founded in 2018, with trade commencing 1 January, 2021. It was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. The free trade area is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.
Accra in Ghana serves as the Secretariat of AfCFTA and was commissioned and handed over to the AU by the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo on August 17, 2020 in Accra. The proposal was set to come into force 30 days after ratification by 22 of the signatory states. On April 2, 2019, The Gambia became the 22nd state to ratify the agreement.
Mr. Amson Sibanda, Chief National Strategies and Capacities Building Branch, Division for Sustainable Development Goals, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (NSCBB, DSDG, DESA), said the workshop was timely and the presence of the vice president demonstrated the high-level commitment of the Government of the Gambia to the partnership of the United Nations system including the UN Country Team.
“As the United Nation system, we have joined you today to discuss how we can join hand and promote the contributions of the Gambia Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise to building better from the Covid-19 pandemic and achieving the 2025 agenda for sustainable development goals and the African agenda 2063 in the Gambia,” Mr. Amson said.
Aissata De, United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) Country Representative, said the agreement establishing the AfCFTA was a key milestone in Africa’s regional integration agenda. She added that the AfCFTA is expected to be a key agent of economic growth, industrialization and sustainable development in Africa, as in line with 2030 agenda and the adopted 2063 AU agenda.
Ebrima Sisawo, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Trade, said MSMEs are the backbone of many developing economies globally, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Despite the high informality in the Gambia, MSMEs play important roles in production, employment creation, poverty eradication and boosting household income,” PS Sisawo explained.
MSMEs represent a majority of enterprises, contributing about 20% of GDP and employing approximately 60% of the urban labour force.
The main expected outcomes of the high-level workshop include; provision of policy recommendations to strengthen the capacity of Gambia’s MSMEs to leverage on the AfCFTA, providing evidence-based (international best practice) solutions for addressing potential challenges the AfCFTA may pose to the Gambia MSME Ecosystem.