April 8, 2021

Representatives of AfCFTA, UNDP, ECOWAS, Development Partner Organizations and training participants in a group photo session at the launch of the training in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo UNDP/Sierra Leone

Freetown, Sierra Leone, April 7, 2021— The dawn of this year saw African countries open their markets to one another under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, which according to Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat is a “hope for Africa to be lifted up from poverty”. Accordingly, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with other partners is helping to ensure that this hope turns to reality.

On March 29, UNDP’s Africa Regional Director Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa announced the organization’s package of $3 million United States Dollars in grant to support the AfCFTA.

In line with the events, on April 07th 2021, UNDP and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission launched a Training of Trainers programme for participants in the ECOWAS region in Freetown, Sierra Leone for the eventual strengthening of the capacities of women small and medium enterprise traders and producers in the region to better harness the opportunities and benefits presented by the AfCFTA open market agreement.

The Capacity Building Programme named Maximizing Opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area will run from 7-9 April in Freetown, Sierra Leone, particularly commits to enhancing the capability of women and youth in the ECOWAS region to take charge of the AfCFTA. The Training is for Trainers to acquire skills and knowledge which they will further share among their peers and community members to make the most and best of trade opportunities within the newly created One African Market brought about by the AfCFTA Agreement.

The Market will generate opportunities for SME traders, producers, service providers and investors in the region by providing access to cheaper input sources, scaling businesses, increased exports (especially of value-added products), and through the development of the much-needed beneficial regional value chain.

With mostly women and youth participants, the training-of-trainers’ sessions comprised of:

  • Practical guidance for exploring opportunities and navigating trade formalities will be provided in this session. The modalities for exporting goods and services into various African countries.
  • A compendium of issues related to e-commerce which can enable or inhibit trading across borders through electronic channels.
  • Practical tools and templates to explore and enter new markets will be discussed. Financing instruments and channels available at continental, regional and national levels.
  • Tools including the African Trade Observatory and the Non-Tariff Barriers Reporting Mechanism.
  • Open discussions to highlight perspectives and concerns of traders, and discussion on modalities for national workshops.

Representing Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, the Assistant Secretary General and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, at the opening of the training, the UNDP Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, Pa Lamin Beyai remarked that, “in partnership with other sister agencies such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC), we will articulate the AfCFTA Agreement, highlight the requirements for exports to various African countries, discuss e-commerce as a tool for exploring new markets, and provide an overview of financing instruments available to SMEs for cross- border trade”. “As a development-oriented organization keen to deliver on its capacity building programmes in maximizing opportunities so that no one is left behind, UNDP commits to supporting the implementation of the Agreement, and will continue to work with ECOWAS and other partners not only in the delivery of this training for trainers, but also in other broader partnership areas to make the AfCFTA Agreement work tangibly for the targeted groups in the ECOWAS region” he added.

The AfCFTA will create an African market for goods and services covering 1.2billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of US$3 trillion, building on the progress towards integration achieved in regional economic communities such as ECOWAS.

According to Her Excellency Finda Koroma, the Vice President of ECOWAS, “within the AfCFTA market, there are opportunities for traders, producers, service providers and investors originating in the ECOWAS region to source cheaper inputs, scale businesses, increase exports, especially of value-added products, and develop beneficial regional value chains”.

UNDP’s support to AfCFTA Agreement mainly focuses on women and youth empowerment as these are the “two groups which have the ability to lead and drive Africa’s economic transformation in pursuit of progressive liberalization of services which prioritize five areas – business development, Information Communication and Technology, financial services, transport and tourism which will unlock important high-value opportunities for production, work, and trade within the continent” according to UNDP’s Resident Representative in Sierra Leone.

The represented organizations (including the United Nations Agencies, development partners, civil society, private sector and media) and participants will commit to organizing a minimum of three AfCFTA awareness workshops in their countries, through the ECOWAS Commission.

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Note to Editors:

The AfCFTA is a legal instrument that creates an African market for goods and services through the elimination of tariffs, the removal of non-tariff barriers, liberalisation of services, and cooperation in customs arrangements and other regulation.

All ECOWAS member States have signed the AfCFTA Agreement, and 12 of 15 member States have deposited instruments of ratification. ECOWAS is developing a regional AfCFTA Strategy to guide implementation of the continental trade agreement.

Access the Agreement here.

Access additional information on UNDP’s partnership with the AfCFTA from here.

For media enquiry, please contact:
Helen Mayelle, Communication Analyst, UNDP in Sierra Leone +232 78 605 355

About UNDPUNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in some 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. Visit for more information.

About ECOWAS: The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Established on May 28 1975 via the treaty of Lagos, ECOWAS is a 15-member regional group with a mandate of promoting economic integration in all fields of activity of the constituting countries. Member countries making up ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’ Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo. Considered one of the pillars of the African Economic Community, ECOWAS was set up to foster the ideal of collective self-sufficiency for its member states. As a trading union, it is also meant to create a single, large trading bloc through economic cooperation. You can find more information about the community here.