AfCFTA: Microsoft 4Afrika roots for technology

…extols partnership with FirstBank, MTN, others

The Regional Director, Microsoft 4Afrika, Amrote Abdella, has said that the digital outfit’s partnership with some institutions has turned out positive as it has elevated the status of Small and Medium scale Enterprises sector. Abdella, in her column on Africa Business Communities, said partnership with FirstBank, Vodacom, MTN and Liquid Telecom had facilitated extending cloud services to SMEs, thereby supporting their growth. She said to date, 4Afrika had reached 1.7 million SMEs and brought 728k online. The regional director, who focused on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, said deploying tech-nology in the implementation of the trade pact would make it extremely beneficial to Africans. She said with all the challenges that COVID-19 had presented to Africa, there were many exciting changes afoot, and few are potentially more impactful than AfCFTA.

“The AfCFTA is an exciting game-changer agreement for the countries who are signatories. Currently, Africa accounts for just two per cent of global trade. And only 17 per cent of African exports are intra-continental, compared with 59 per cent in Asia and 68 per cent in Europe. The pact is designed to create the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating. Connecting 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at $3.4 trillion. It will boost regional income by seven per cent or $450 billion, and lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035.

Wages for both skilled and unskilled workers will also be boosted by 10.3 per cent for unskilled workers, and 9.8 per cent for skilled workers,” she noted. According to her, the AfCFTA can play the role of unlocking innovation, growth and productivity across the continent, but significantly, for its SME segment, by translating spending power into economic development. Cutting red tape and simplifying customs procedures could bring significant income gains for SMEs. By improving their ability to quickly scale up using digital skills, SMEs have the chance to capitalise on the potential trade boom.

“This is particularly important when we consider that SMEs represent about 90 per cent of businesses and more than 50 per cent of employment worldwide. Formal SMEs contribute up to 40 per cent of national income (GDP) in emerging economies, and these numbers rise significantly if we include informal SMEs. In emerging markets, most formal jobs are generated by SMEs, which create seven out of 10 jobs. “Digital skills are essential for any organisation to grow, and we want to encourage technology adoption and skills development in every organisation. Microsoft 4Afrika’s unconventional partnerships with SMEs and Telco’s have proven successful in supporting SMEs on their path to success. “A powerful force expediting cross-border trade is the accelerating progress of digital technology in areas spanning from trade logistics, automated processing and e-payments.

“Digital platforms and the adoption of mobile technology are increasingly making trade easier by promoting digital, financial and social inclusion. By aggregating demand across the continent, these platforms give small and medium businesses opportunities to access new markets, and to offer goods and services previously limited by location constraints and marketing costs. These platforms create a diversification effect that boosts the robustness of supply chains, a necessary step when global supply chains remain fragile.




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