Eric Osiakwan, the Managing Partner of Chanzo Capital has said that digitalization is crucial for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to achieve its main objectives of creating a single market for goods and services, promote industrial development and sustainable and inclusive socio-economic growth.
Speaking at the Business Executive Breakfast Series organized by MTN themed ‘Accelerating SME Growth and Development: The Role of Digitisation’, the Mr. Osiakwan urged African governments to embrace digitalization heavily which according to him, will prove very critical to the success or otherwise of the continental free trade area.
“Digital breaks barriers, digital solves corruption, digital creates enablement, and digital creates effectiveness and efficiency. So, there are so many benefits that if governments put their heads to – and begin to drive their economies toward – digitisation, it is going to create a strong, enabling environment that drives a lot of the entrepreneurship needed; which will create a lot of incentives entrepreneurs need to lead the solutions that will push the economies forward,” Mr. Osiakwan stated.
For decades, regional integration in Africa has been hampered by the lack of political will exhibited by member-states, political instability, the multiplicity of memberships to Regional Economic Communities (RECs), and inadequate funding.
According to the African Union (AU), intra-African trade is estimated to increase by 52.3 percent (US$34.6billion) under the AfCFTA. The free trade area will cover a market of 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$2.5trillion across 54 member-states. The continental trading bloc is expected to be the world’s largest free trade area since the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) formation in terms of the number of participating states.
Ghana in 2020 handed over the secretariat of AfCFTA to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, at a ceremony in Accra.
Touching on the theme ‘Accelerating SME Growth and Development: The Role of Digitisation’, Mr. Osiakwan stressed that African governments need to create a policy framework for innovation so that the continent’s young entrepreneurs can envision creating new solutions to existing problems.
“We have seen a strong optimisation within the private sector, so it begs the question that if government were to become a strong enabler, would you have more companies and more opportunities in that area?” he stated.
Meanwhile, he commended the government of Ghana for embracing digitisation.
On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of McDan Group, Dr. Daniel McKorley, stated that digitisation has “brought us closer to success than we can ever imagine”.
The MTN Business Executive Breakfast Series is a quarterly platform created by MTN to discuss issues and proffer solutions to challenges facing the economy across all its sectors: including health, education, technology, SMEs and many more.