No fewer than 25 Trade and Economic Officers from 14 African countries have received a masterclass to boost their capacities in trade and investment facilitation.
Nazaru LLC, a U.S.-based services company, delivered the free online training ahead of the planned takeoff of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January 2021.
An African Union Policy Officer was among the participants from Uganda, Egypt, Lesotho, Mauritania, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Togo, Mauritius, African Union, Namibia, Somalia, Mozambique, Algeria and Eswatini.
The recipients were drawn from institutions and organisations charged with facilitating adoption and implementation of the AfCFTA.
Topics covered included Market Access Development Strategies, Supply Chain Development and Sector-Specific Export Strategy Development, Trade Monitoring and Trade Information, and Sector-Specific Investment Promotion Framework.
The masterclass, according to the resource person and Chief Executive Officer of Nazaru, Ms Toyin Umesiri, is aimed at enhancing the participants’ capacities to effectively drive the AfCFTA.
Speaking at an AfCFTA roundtable she hosted days earlier, Umesiri, a Nigerian, said that there was a skill gap among stakeholders as regards the strategic vision of the trade pact.
“A lot has been said about the AfCFTA, including its benefits and technicalities but one thing I have observed is a skill gap on how to personalise the agreement.
“For everybody listening to me, the big question is now what does the agreement mean to you? What does that mean to your role and responsibility as a stakeholder?
“For several years now, we have been bringing global stakeholders together and we are finding that that is not enough.
“What we are seeing is that there is a skills gap of taking the strategic vision and implementing it.
“That skill is what we need to maximise the AfCFTA for the industrialisation and development of Africa of the future,’’ she said.
She noted that the trade pact would end as a pipe dream without the required human capital to effectively manage the investment in the initiative.
Umesiri, who drives increased U.S. commercial interest in Africa, cited the “somewhat failed’’ African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
AGOA is a preferential trade policy enacted by the U.S. government since 2000 to open the country’s market to eligible Sub-Saharan African countries.
However, many African countries have not been able to take advantage of the opportunity due largely to their inability to navigate the non-tariff barriers, according to experts.
Umesiri said: “We all know that eliminating tariff is one step, we also have non-tariff barriers, which is where the real work lies.
“Coming together, partnering, improving our skills and collaborating are part of the things that will move us forward.
“Along that line, we at Nazaru have made a commitment over the next one year to train our policymakers and business executives in terms of trade and investment facilitation.
“We are now armed with information, we are armed with resources to know that the AfCTA is a game-changer for the continent of Africa.
“My challenge to everybody listening is what are you going to do? What role are you going to play in advancing the continent of Africa?’’ she asked.