STCCI and partners to support SMEs growth in line with AFCFTA

Anaji (WR), March 20, GNA - The Sekondi-Takoradi Chambers of Commerce & Industry (STCCI) is to launch the "200 Rising African Visionary Enterprises" (RAVEs) in the Western Region of Ghana to build resilience among businesses.

The RAVEs Initiative, is one of the Africa inter-Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) implementation solutions, targeting small businesses being piloted currently in Ghana and Nigeria.

The STCCI in partnership with the Centre for Strategic Enterprise Development (CSED), a Small and Medium Enterprises Support organization with a niche in modern technology application would undertake the projects.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of CSED, Mr Izu Divine Freeman, Africa is mostly a SMEs economy since over 80% of the continents’ businesses and employments are in micro, small and medium businesses.

Therefore, AfCFTA’s objectives cannot be achieved without intensional and deliberate SMEs strategy across AfCFTA member countries.

The Chief Executive Officer of STCCI, Mr. Vincent Annan, said the implementation of AfCFTA in 2021 is been challenged with the aftermath of the COVID-19 and its impact on Small Businesses.

He mentioned some challenges in 2020 as; border closures, increased cost of operating businesses, and decreased purchasing power of customers due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown among others.

"However, the RAVEs Initiative that will strengthen SMEs with Capacity, Technology, and Finance interventions, there is hope for AfCFTA”, he added.

According to him, the RAVEs Initiative starts with assessing SMEs through the AfCFTA READINESS TEST on legal framework compliance, business best practices, and growth readiness with the aid of RAVE Index Technology.

Mr Annan said upon completion of the assessments, the rated SMEs are supported with access to capacity in the form of training, regularization support; as well as technology by providing free Mobile App accounting, human resources, and e-commerce technologies.

On capital, grants, loan facilities and equity investment would be given to grow and expand the businesses of SMEs.

The 200 rated and strengthened SMEs are further indexed in the RAVE INDEX portal for investors, featured in RAVE documentary, published in catalogues, and showcased in a live event on the United Nations SMEs day.

He said "at the heart of this initiative is ensuring that the small businesses grow and are expanded to trade across Africa which would lead to enhanced sustainable job creation thereby lifting more people above poverty lines".

“The RAVEs initiative is geared towards decent work and economic growth in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 8, 2 & 3.

The initiative will further assist in achieving SDGs 1 & 2; poverty and hunger reduction as well as SDGs 17 by building partnerships across Public-Private and CSOs sectors.

Dr Ikechukwu Okoli PhD, Cofounder/Researcher & Communications Director of CSED said, "We are open for public, private, and CSOs collaboration from all sectors to efficiently and effectively achieve this great feat”.

The African Union (AU) brokered the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in 2015 and six years on, 54 African countries are signatories to the agreement.

The AfCFTA promises the facilitation of free movement of people, capital, goods, and services across the member countries with a secretariat in Ghana thereby creating a market of over 1.3 billion persons, the single largest economic block in the world.

The market would serve African products and services with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at USD 3.4 trillion with the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty and to raise the incomes of 68 million others who live on less than USD 5.50 per day.

The World Bank estimates that the implementation of AfCFTA would facilitate measures that would cut red tapeism and simplify customs procedures that would, in turn, drive the USD 292 billion of the $450 billion in income gains from AfCFTA.