By Ntombi Mhlongo
The COMESA Business Council (CBC) in collaboration with the International Trade Centre (ITC) has trained staff from more than 100 firms and public agencies in Eswatini and Zimbabwe on the first continental portal, the Africa Trade Observatory.
The portal is meant to unlock the continent’s trade opportunities. The African Trade Observatory is one of the five operational instruments of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to drive intraregional trade of small businesses.
The online dashboard is critical for helping businesses identify and compare emerging opportunities across the continent. It provides integrated and reliable trade intelligence on international market performance and opportunities as well as market access conditions.
The training was conducted with support from the 11th European Union Development Fund through COMESA’s Regional Enterprise Competitiveness and Access to Markets Programme (RECAMP).
Business Eswatini and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce were also partners in the training.
The training will complement other COMESA initiatives such as the COMESA Digital Retail Payments Platform, and the Regional Customs Single Window, according to CBC Chief Executive Officer Teddy Soobramanien.
Speaking during the opening of the training sessions, Soobramanien noted that the availability of good quality data is critical for business success in the ever-evolving regional and global economic landscape.
“This capacity-building initiative is vital and timely as COMESA Member States continue to position themselves for commercially meaningful trade under the AfCFTA,” he said.
He added that small and medium-sized enterprises contribute over 70 per cent to the region’s economic growth hence galvanizing their transition into regional and global value chains is of fundamental importance to the regional integration agenda.
So far, similar training has been carried out in Zambia, Malawi, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Four more Member States namely Kenya, Seychelles, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are earmarked for the third and fourth quarters of the year.
With the start of trading under the AfCFTA, the relevance of the ATO is ever crucial as it provides updated and reliable data to inform business and policy decisions and to monitor the implementation process of the agreement and its impact.