YALDA i-Boot Virtual Summit under the theme: ‘Beyond Covid-19: ‘Leveraging the Benefits of the AfCFTA to Spur Africa’s Growth’

Johannesburg (South Africa): On Thursday, 20th November, 2020 the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), International Trade Centre (ITC) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat held the Pre i-Boot Camp Virtual Summit, discussing “Beyond COVID-19: Leveraging the Benefits of the AfCFTA to Spur Africa’s Growth”.

The summit brought over 700 young people, industry leaders and entrepreneurs together in a series of webinars and workshops which created a knowledge sharing platform to enable and facilitate strategies around how young people can overcome the impact of COVID-19 and revitalise Africa’s growth. The summit also educated young people on the AfCFTA and how to leverage it in order to thrive in this ‘new normal.’

The Objectives of the Summit were to

  • Provide a platform for young people to engage digitally with industry and business leaders in order to share strategies around how young people can respond to COVID-19;
  • Help young people leverage the changing ways of work and incorporate these into their business strategies in order to capitalise on opportunities that will arise in the digital environment post COVID-19;
  • Address information asymmetry and challenges youth entrepreneurs face as it relates to trade and investment in Africa and the AfCFTA;
  • Assist young people to be able to utilise trade agreements to expand their enterprises beyond their borders thereby deepening intra-Africa trade and creating more avenues for employment; and
  • Legitimize the position that YALDA holds as the representative African youth-led organisation on the continent capable of bridging the divide between industry players and young people across the trade platforms i.e. business, government, and multilateral institutions thus deepening participation by young people.

The Summit was opened by the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sport, Chad H.E Routouang Mohamed Ndonga Christian, who emphasized the need for youth to “…take ownership, not only seize the opportunity to find jobs beyond their borders but also do business in other countries making use of their talent…” In his speech, he reiterated the fact that the AfCFTA allows young people to seize opportunities for business and development, and that it will create jobs beyond borders. He added that the AfCFTA will give access to inaccessible areas and with this, the African youth need to express their interest, talents and vigor of genuineness.

The Summit’s highlight was the business pitch competition where four finalists pitched their businesses for the opportunity to win a $5,000 investment prize. Among the finalists were Foodline (Rwanda), Awawo (Malawi), Haile Wako Integrated Farms (Ethiopia) and Yonima Errands Runner (Gambia). Upon evaluation of the prospects by the panel of judges and given the intra-African trade perspective of the Virtual Summit, Haile Wako Integrated Farms emerged the winner of the session.

The Summit featured keynote presentations from Dr. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary UNECA, His Excellency Mr. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General, AfCFTA Secretariat, Ms. Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, and Dr. Raymond Gilpin, Head of Strategy and Regional Analysis, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Africa.

Thought and business leaders from different sectors across the continent contributed to the discourse on youth and the AfCFTA through three distinct panel sessions:

  1. Growing the Digital Infrastructure in Africa for Effective Implementation of the AfCFTA beyond COVID-19;
  2. Resuscitating Africa’s Supply Chain: Positioning by youth-run businesses to leverage the AfCFTA for trade development; and
  3. Innovative funding measures for your business during the pandemic and beyond.

Additionally, participants were led in a symposium titled “What exactly is the AfCFTA and how can youth benefit from its operationalisation” coordinated by ITC which examined the youth demographic in Africa, the inherent opportunities in the AfCFTA and steps towards leveraging those opportunities for the continent’s growth.

The event also featured various virtual networking sessions where participants were divided up into groups from different countries but with similar industry interests.  In these groups they were able to discuss the effects of COVID-19 in their countries and opportunities to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic. 

The Summit concluded with the development of resolutions that were presented to the AfCFTA Secretariat and other co-conveners.  The resolutions can be found here.