By Aisha Tamba & Oumie Bojang
The Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment with the support of UNDP and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs yesterday organised a high-level policy workshop to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), in micro-small and medium size enterprise (MSMEs).
The vice president of The Gambia, Dr Isatou Touray, representing the president, said the Barrow administration would desire nothing less than the intended objectives and outcomes of mainstreaming MSMEs into the AfCFTA implementation modalities for The Gambia.
MSMEs are globally recognised as the backbone of many developing economies, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The informal sector, which constitutes a large share of MSMEs in the least developed and developing economies, accounts for 25 to 40 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and often more than 60 percent of employment, according to the World Bank.
“Today, as we engage in the policy discuss, the AfCFTA brought forth one of the biggest single market of 1.3 billion and combined GDP of US$3.4 trillion opportunity to the global economy,” the vice president said. “The government and more so the Ministry is challenged to take its lead in collaborating with partners and donors to fully provide facilitation and guidance for the MSMEs towards a competitive economy of scales”.
She said her government will have to provide necessary resources for the Ministry to aggressively coordinate other resources that may come from partners and donors to the MSME ecosystem.
“All that is needed is to ensure the relevant capacities for the MSMEs to be able to pick on the available opportunities in the AfCFTA. In this light, the MSMEs could as well consider forming and/or strengthen existing associations to ensure collective bargaining power. I encourage MSMEs to disregard enterprise size and focus on quality to access the regional value chains,” she advised.
Ebrima Sisawo, permanent secretary at the trade ministry, said the ultimate objective of the policy workshop is to bring together high-level decision-makers to discuss and explore possible options and come up with strategic recommendations to address the potential challenges of the AfCFTA and how MSMEs in The Gambia can be repositioned to effectively benefit from the Agreement.
“We value each and every institution herein present and we sincerely believe that we will all endeavor to adequately contribute to the discussions and come up with appropriate recommendations that will ensure MSMEs and industries triumph in the new competitive regime,” he said.
Mr Amason Sibandi, head of UN-DESA, said the growth of the national economy, poverty eradication, women and youth empowerment, and the creation of decent jobs rely considerably on the contributions of micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises from every part of the country.
He added that MSMEs provide employment and income for many who lose or cannot find work in the formal economy. “While informal MSMEs may provide a short-term solution to a household’s livelihood needs, creating an economy with a higher proportion of formal enterprises and jobs is important to long term wealth creation, welfare gains, stability and poverty reduction,” Mr Sibandi noted.
He said in light of the continued impact of the pandemic on global, regional and national economies, it has become imperative for MSMEs across the continent to rethink their business models in order to overcome the current crisis and similar future shocks as well as to fully leverage the new market opportunities presented by the AfCFTA.
“The UNDESA office is delighted to witness the efforts made by the government aimed at supporting local MSMEs. Together with the UN Country Team in The Gambia, we are honored to have joined the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment,” he said.
Speaking further, Mr Sibandi asserted: “We are currently conducting an intensive six-day MSME entrepreneur training workshop jointly with MOTIE, The Gambia Import and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), and UNCTAD at the National Nutrition Agency.
Through providing need-based knowledge to 40 young MSME entrepreneurs, the majority of whom are women, the workshop seeks to strengthen entrepreneurial capacities and skills that contribute to building resilience against economic uncertainties and further help young entrepreneurs grow and leverage opportunities provided by the AfCFTA, and in the process generate new job opportunities in the communities they live and operate in.”