UNDP Africa's pavilion at IATF2023: a thriving space for nearly 50 entrepreneurs from 17 countries

December 1, 2023

Entrepreneurs sponsored by UNDP country offices at the IATF2023, UNDP Africa pavilion

UNDP Africa

November 2023, Cairo- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Africa marked a significant presence at the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) 2023, held in Cairo from 9 to 15 November. This underscores its commitment to strengthening the trade readiness of women and youth towards the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) while fostering economic inclusivity.

In this context, UNDP Africa provided a platform for nearly 50 entrepreneurs, predominantly women, sponsored by UNDP Country Offices and partners such as the International Organization for Migration and the African Union Commission, to showcase their products and services while fostering connections for market expansion.

The entrepreneurs showcased a range of products, including food, spices, cosmetics, packaging including recycled bags, shoes and more, from across 17 different African countries. The programme helped the businesses establish connections between entrepreneurs and other businesses, business associations and investors.

In her pre-recorded welcoming messages, Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director for UNDP Africa, Ahunna Eziakonwa, emphasized the transformative potential of Intra-African Trade, stating, ‘You will be the ones who transform Africa, creating jobs, raising incomes and manifesting a trade-led prosperity agenda.’

You will be the ones who transform Africa, creating jobs, raising incomes and manifesting a trade-led prosperity agenda.
Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director for UNDP Africa

Amid the dynamic atmosphere of the pavilion, stories unfolded — of entrepreneurs sharing dreams and resilience behind every creation. The pavilion was a dynamic hub for engagement and networking, drawing visits from key delegations, including representatives from Cameroon, Zambia and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Discussions centered around the practical pathways for businesses to access markets, increase production levels and establish beneficial partnerships across borders. 

In the same vein, the Pan-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI) welcomed UNDP-supported entrepreneurs to showcase their products at their pavilion, entrepreneurs attended a session co-organized by UNDP and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that weaved discussions on the free movement of people and goods into the narrative of advancing a ''borderless Africa''. These and other events including capacity building programme on market access jointly with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), allowed for meaningful discussions, providing valuable perspectives on market dynamics and challenges. Similarly, collaboration with the African Union Commission on the Africa Industrialization Week generated tangible actions to boost tech industry growth and catalyze the emergence of regulatory systems that enable technology innovation. 

UNDP’s ongoing support to business associations also demonstrated fruit, as in the signing of an MoU on trade finance and market intelligence between AFREXIM Bank and Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe and South Africa chapters of the Organization of Women in Trade. UNDP has supported OWIT members identify concrete market opportunities and undertake cross – border transactions. Building on this UNDP will seek to connect more businesses with the African Union African Women in Processing Initiative to enhance productive capacity, facilitate access to finance, and contribute to the sophistication of products available in the African market. 

UNDP Africa's presence at the IATF 2023 underscored its commitment to supporting entrepreneurs navigating the African market. UNDP Africa Regional Advisor on AfCFTA, Komi Tsowou ''reiterated commitment to continue working with partners in scaling up support to small and medium-sized entrepreneurs to identify markets and comply with trade requirements''   Prioritizing the needs of women-led and youth-led businesses, UNDP Africa aligns its efforts with the broader objectives of sustainable development and economic empowerment in the region, in harmony with the goals of Agenda 63 of the African Union.