Africa trade round-up: Report shows continent's supply chain rise, SmartAfCFTA and other initiatives

Thu 24 Aug 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Africa on globe

In the IOE&IT Daily Update’s latest round-up of African trade news, we look at a report that finds Africa is ready to become a prominent player in global supply chains, a new collaboration involving the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that could lead to more sustainable development, and the establishment of the IOE&IT’s first office on the continent.

Africa’s rising supply chain force

A new UN report has found that African businesses are set to have an increasingly prominent role in global supply chains due to their wealth of materials that are needed by high-tech sectors and their own growing consumer bases.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) ‘Economic Development in Africa’ paper was launched in Nairobi last week (16 August). It seeks to examine Africa’s potential for sectors such as automotive, telecommunications, renewable energy and health care.

"This is Africa's moment to bolster its position in global supply chains as diversification efforts continue,” said UNCTAD secretary general Rebecca Grynspan. “It's also an opportunity for the continent to strengthen its emerging industries, foster economic growth and create jobs for millions of its people”.

Sylivia Nalwanga, an IOE&IT trade consultant based in Kampala, Uganda, said the report confirms the rising importance of African markets, which is set to only increase with the development of AfCFTA.

She said: “AfCFTA will enhance the participation of African firms in regional value chains, and this will increase the level of production and export within the continent.”


The AfCFTA secretariat has signed an MOU with Zenith Bank Plc to develop a new ‘one-stop online trade data interface’ which will offer “country-specific and product-centric information pertinent to AfCFTA”.

The hope is that the portal will reduce costs for traders, improve transparency, drive efficiency and contribute to sustainable growth across Africa.

Nalwanga has welcomed the new partnership, telling the IOE&IT Daily Update:

“This initiative will increase trade facilitation through the simplification and harmonisation of necessary procedures.

“It will also reduce the cost of doing business across the African continent.”

AfCFTA and Peace Fund linkage

The director of the Peace Fund Secretariat in the African Union (AU) Commission, Dagmawit Moges, has written an op-ed on the AfCFTA website about the role of the Peace Fund in forging a “path to sustainable development”.

She describes the unit as the “linchpin” bringing together a range of different AU institutions that work together on “the development of core institutional capacities that strengthen responses to conflict and build resilience”.

Moges writes that AfCFTA and the Peace Fund create a “virtuous circle that enhances prosperity and ensures peace and stability”.

Nalwanga agrees about the important role that institutions like Peace Fund have to play, alongside the development of AfCFTA. She said:

“There can’t be economic growth without peace and security on the continent.

“Therefore, AfCFTA and the Peace Fund will work towards resolving conflict and creating an environment conducive to safe trade and economic growth.”

South Africa hosts BRICS summit

A summit of more than 60 developing nations – including the BRICS group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is meeting in Johannesburg this week, amid rumours that the group could look to establish itself as an economic or political rival to the G7.

The current BRICS set-up was formed in 2010 when South Africa joined the group, and it is now weighing up expanding its membership in a bid to become a counterweight to the West, according to Reuters.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said that his country and China had “similar views” about the idea of expansion ahead of a state visit from China’s premier Xi Jinping.

Writing on Jambo Africa, Busi Mabuza, the chairperson of the South African chapter of the BRICS Business Council, said this week’s summit provided African countries a “platform to unlock trade and investment opportunities to accelerate post-covid economic recovery, not only across Africa and BRICS countries, but the entire world.”

She also wrote that that South African businesses should work with their BRICS counterparts to “address uneven trade patterns in the emerging bloc”.

Nalwanga commented to the IOE&IT Daily Update that the summit was an important opportunity to position AfFCTA as a key enabler for economic growth in the developing world.

She said:

“BRICS is an engine room for jobs creation, giving a platform for industrial development and export opportunities.”

Update on new IOE&IT Africa office

In July, the IOE&IT opened its new Africa office in Nairobi, Kenya, with director general Marco Forgione saying the initiative was “hugely important”.

“I am excited to open our first office in Kenya, joined by our new Africa-based team members,” he said. “It is a testament to the growing role played by the continent of Africa in global trade, and to the innovation that African nations are nurturing, that so many professionals are taking IOE&IT qualifications and accessing our training programmes.”

An event to mark the opening was held at Deputy British High Commissioner Josephine Gauld’s residence on 10 July, at which Forgione spoke alongside Gauld.

Six weeks on from the launch, Nalwanga tells the IOE&IT Daily Update that the African team has been working hard on a range of projects.

She said:

“From the office launch there has been a lot of stakeholder engagement and capacity building, especially for SMEs, women and young people. Qualifications are now on offer, such as a ITC Level 3 Certificate in International Trade and Level 4 Diploma in international Trade.”