By integrating African economies, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement has the potential to unlock a market of 1.3 billion people. Africa’s youth are critical to its success.
Since May 2020, UNDP and the African Union Commission (AUC) have contributed to helping Africa’s women and youth maximize opportunities in the African market through a project to support the implementation of the AfCFTA.
Through various initiatives, including the inaugural AfCFTA Futures Report (2020), the Africa Youth Month Innovation Challenge, training guides, capacity building programmes, investments, and cross-regional dialogues, Africa’s youth highlighted three key messages for maximizing opportunities from the Agreement:
1. Youth are not a homogenous group: they are present in all facets of economies and societies
2. Facilitate market access for youth: efforts to connect African traders across countries should deliberately include youth-owned/led businesses
3. Consider youth in the AfCFTA: from policy design to implementation and monitoring of action
Between November 2020 and November 2021, UNDP in partnership with the AUC hosted the Africa Youth Month Policy Challenge around the theme, ‘Innovating Africa’s Transformation through the AfCFTA’.
The Challenge consisted of an AfCFTA masterclass for African youth followed by a competition in which finalists proposed regional and national strategic implementation plans for maximizing the benefits of the AfCFTA for women and youth.
The winning finalist, Alexander Katemecha, a Fisheries Officer Intern at the Blantyre Fisheries Office in Malawi, proposed a national strategic plan aimed at achieving several inter-connected goals: empowering women and youth and increasing their participation in intra-African trade; transforming micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) into mainstream businesses; and facilitating e-commerce and digitalization.
The strategic plan also prioritized access to safe, affordable and sustainable transport and information and communication technology (ICT); integration with regional and global value chains; and the mainstreaming of cross-cutting issues such as the environment and climate change.
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