From 21 to 23 August, Youth Ambassadors representatives from the Seven EAC Partner States supported by the EAC-GIZ SEAMPEC II and GIZ AU AfCFTA programme attended the Inaugural AfCFTA Youth Symposium that took place in Lusaka, Zambia, to contribute to the deepening and widening of an inclusive EAC and continental integration with an emphasis on the participation of the youth in the EAC regional and continental trade.
The symposium themed “Igniting the Future of the Youth in Trade in Africa” provided an opportunity for the youth from all over Africa to become aware of the AfCFTA as a catalyst for sustainable and inclusive development in this new era of trade in Africa. The youth were also sensitized to the nexus between the framework on youth peace and security and the AfCFTA trade agreement. The symposium highlighted the role of young people through entrepreneurship, skills and innovation in accelerating the implementation of the AfCFTA and shaping the future of trade in Africa.
The participants familiarized themselves with the solutions to fostering the African start-up ecosystem development and explored innovative approaches, policies and initiatives to empower young entrepreneurs. Shared success stories, lessons learned and best practices from entrepreneurs and stakeholders across the continent were showcased. They also learned about strategies for creating an enabling environment that empowers young people, especially entrepreneurs, to thrive within the AfCFTA framework. Other areas covered include the significance of legal education in empowering youth to become proficient international trade lawyers and treaty negotiators, the role of youth in driving trade policy processes and effectively implementing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in accelerating industrialization through youth-led entrepreneurship, the nexus between youth creatives and the AfCFTA and youth empowerment through digital financial inclusion and trade under the AfCFTA.
In his closing remarks, Mr Marvin Nuwagaba, Trade Advisor, GIZ Ghana, applauded the AfCFTA Secretariat and the government of Zambia for hosting the symposium. He appreciated the youth's active engagement and challenged them to go beyond the financial inclusion discussion and delve deeper into how the youth can participate in the actual implementation of the AfCFTA. He added that GIZ was happy to have facilitated the event and looks forward to the implementation of the resolution of the conference together with the youth and the AfCFTA Secretariat.
Interactive Session of East African Youth Ambassadors with the AfCFTA High-Level Official
The EAYAP interacted with the high-level AfCFTA staff present at the symposium, H. E Wamkele Mene, Secretary General, AfCFTA and Mr Prudence Sebahizi, Director for Institutional Matters, during the Youth Town Hall Session. They asked questions about the AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade and how it complements and reinforces the existing protocols on trade in goods and services and addresses the specific challenges and barriers that women and youth face in accessing markets, finance, technology, skills and information across the continent.
The youth ambassadors participated in the session on leveraging AFCFTA for Tech Startup Growth. The session discussed strategies and insights on how tech startups could harness the AfCFTA to expand their operations, access new markets and foster cross-border collaboration.
Ms Bernadette Massawe, Deputy Youth Ambassador EAC from the United Republic of Tanzania, remarked on Ecosystem Growth and Harmonization for tech startup growth. She noted that certain African nations like Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa foster robust tech startup ecosystems due to clear governmental policies endorsing innovation and entrepreneurship, evident in their national startup acts. She urged that harmonization of these policies with the AFCFTA framework should encourage every African nation to formulate distinct policies backing tech startups within their borders while also enabling seamless cross-country expansion.
She mentioned that the main challenge was constraints in registering a startup or business in many African countries due to local shareholding and capital prerequisites, which stymie the prospects of young African tech startups to venture into potentially viable markets across borders. She applauded the EAC, SADC and COMESA for easing intra-regional business activities but noted that the broader vision would now be to harmonize these efforts continent-wide to simplify operations beyond regional confines.
Key recommendations of the EAC Youth Ambassadors during the symposium were:
- The AfCFTA Partner States and Development Partners to strengthen the capacity of youth to access and utilize the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA, such as trade information, market linkages, e-commerce and digital skills, and to be included in the AfCFTA national committee.
- The AfCFTA and Partner States to support the youth to advocate for the ratification and implementation of the AfCFTA Women and Youth Protocol, which aims to ensure the inclusion and participation of youth in the AfCFTA processes.
- The AfCFTA Partner States and Development Partners to support the establishment of youth networks across the continent as champions and ambassadors for the AfCFTA who can raise awareness and mobilize support among their peers and communities.
- The AfCFTA Partner States support the empowerment of young people to be active agents of change and advocates for the AfCFTA by enhancing their knowledge capacity, participation and representation in the decision-making processes.
- The AfCFTA Partner States to promote the inclusion and empowerment of women and girls, as well as marginalized and vulnerable groups of youth, in the AfCFTA implementation.
Find more information on EAC-GIZ support to AfCFTA here.
Find more information on EAC-GIZ support to youth here.