Kizito Okechukwu | July 25, 2023
Leading up to the summit, there have been various activities planned by numerous stakeholders, which include, but not limited to, the BRICS Youth summit, BRICS political leaders forum and many more. I have been part of the digital economy working group on BRICS with a stream that was focused on SMMEs and entrepreneurship.
Last week, I was honoured to have been invited by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) for the BRICS Youth summit in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal, under the theme, BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism.
The theme of the BRICS Youth Summit informed five priorities. One of these priorities was unlocking opportunities through the African Free Continental Free Trade Agreement (Afcfta) which was the theme my panel focused on tackling.
The BRIC countries all presented exciting opportunities that exist within the Afcfta and all expressed keen interest to work with the African continent to boost trade and investments. Some of the BRIC countries that presented highlighted on how their various countries could leverage on the opportunities that Afcfta present. Yet many of the contributors to this topic also noted the challenges that could derail the implementation of the Afcfta. These include, among others, aligning tax policies of each of the participating countries with the Afcfta. Another concern, which was expressed by various contributors (myself included), relates to visa requirements within the African continent. On the continent, many Africans still struggle to obtain visas to travel to other African countries. For some, it’s easier to obtain a Schengen visa than to obtain another African country’s visa. The reason for this includes the high cost of visas, a lack of clarification on visa requirements and the time it takes to issue the actual visa. My view is that if Africa cannot achieve seamless cross border movement of its people, then it will struggle to move goods and services across its borders.
Africa needs effective, competent, and knowledgeable leaders that are visionary and fully understand how to leverage the continent’s 450 million+ young people to achieve the Afcfta’s goals. This includes looking at educating and skilling the next generation of leaders, ensuring youth employment and access to entrepreneurial opportunities, maintaining peace and security, as well as prioritizing manufacturing and agriculture as key sectors that could position Africa in the global trade markets.
Finally, to get the youth to eagerly participate in the Afcfta, we need to create an environment that is conducive for them to leverage this opportunity. This means ensuring that there is a technical capacity programme that can prepare the youth to leverage these opportunities. Access to funding is also key to ensure that Afcfta opportunities are not restricted to only large corporates, but that youth businesses have the capital to leverage these opportunities as well. And most importantly, that information on these opportunities is shared widely to ensure there is no information asymmetry, which disadvantages various young people from accessing the relevant information on the opportunities.
With the many vibrant, young and eager people I met at the summit who want to participate in BRICS and Afcfta’s opportunities, I believe the hosts (the National Youth Development Agency and the Department of Women, youth and people living with disabilities) have struck the right chord in ensuring that all our young people are succinctly heard.
With a potential single market of 1.3billion people, the Afcfta could create an economic bloc with a combined GDP of $3.4trillion (R49.93trillion) and a consumer and business spending of $6.7trillion by 2030. However, the Afcfta cannot exist in isolation, BRICS cannot also exist in isolation to other economies. The idea is leveraging the economic bloc of Afcfta and BRICS to have a better trade deal and opportunities.
In conclusion, it is therefore imperative that we ensure that our youth are fully empowered in order to participate and leverage the opportunities that come with BRICS and the Afcfta.
Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane and the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa.
22 On Sloane is the largest startup campus in Africa. The campus offers disruptive startups and innovative SMEs a complete turnkey solution to scale, from the initial idea all the way to commercialisation, funding opportunities and access to markets. Its aim is to nurture the entrepreneurial mindset, ensure their sustainability, and explore development of new industries and contribute towards job creation in Africa.
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