Women and youth have lauded the high-level masterclass on Investment and Export Readiness Under AfCFTA as a game-changing training programme to effectively expand their business prospects.
The International Trade Centre (ITC) collaborated with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT), the AfCFTA Secretariat, the African Women & Youth Empowerment Group (AWYEG), and the Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) to organise the investment and export readiness immersion programme for over 40 women and youth-run and led businesses.
Mechi Amaah, founder of Black’n Natural Cosmetics, manufactures vegan cosmetics for skin and hair in Cameroon, described the Masterclass as a “welcome game changer” for her business.
“The sessions held during the three-day workshop were eye-opening and very educative. I return home to my business, better equipped to take my business forward. All the sessions were extremely useful, but the one on finance readiness really caught my attention. I have a clearer view of how to source finance for equity and how I will insure my products when I start exporting,” she said.
Amaah also underscored how pitching for business has been an integral part of her operations.
“I am really thrilled that there was a session on this. I already had a plan in place, but the Masterclass has helped me to identify the loopholes in my initial pitch. I have already used the knowledge from the Masterclass to upgrade my business pitch plan,” she said.
Shirleen Wangari, the CEO of Blackwell Films in Kenya, also lauded the Masterclass as educative.
“The Masterclass was an absolutely enriching experience. I came to Cape Town to learn more about how to grow my business and seize the massive opportunities that the AfCFTA presents. I am happy to have learnt a lot. I can now do a bankable pitch in under two minutes. Before I came here, I used to talk for over 15 minutes trying to pitch my business! Those pitches were simply too long, and possible investors would lose interest halfway,” said Wangari.
The Blackwell Films owner also found the networking at the AfCFTA Business Forum very beneficial.
“The ITC initiative to give us badges with a QR code to our business profiles was a brilliant idea that made networking so much easier! I am happy to have closed two deals through those badges. I had fruitful meetings with people that are keen to take the conversation of film forward. That would not have happened without this trip. I would really like to thank the ITC and OWIT for making me a part of this wonderful opportunity to grow my business,” she said.
Tanatsiwa Dambuza, a young businessman from Zimbabwe, said the Masterclass came at the right time.
“My business, Elonal Private Limited, has encountered many problems since its inception. The honey business had difficulties in registering due to bureaucratic red tape, cumbersome registration procedures, lack of one-stop offices for all documentation, and lack of financing. The business also struggled to acquire all the exportation documentation, including SAZ certifications, which are requisite to meet the standards and regulations of the international market.
“The Masterclass sessions on accessing finance and how to get the right documentation for export were really informative. They have energised me to go back home, believing that it is possible to grow my business. I now have a very good idea of how to meet the scale and standard of the continental market. “I have also held on to my copy of the AfCFTA Glossary developed in partnership with ITC. It will help me overcome some of the regulatory challenges I may face when looking to export,” he said.
The glossary unpacks the continental Agreement for stakeholders and empowers small businesses to better understand the legal, commercial and customs terms of the AfCFTA Agreement.
The three-day Masterclass programme provided women and youth-owned businesses with the information they need to take advantage of the new intra-regional opportunities provided by the free trade area. It guided business owners to attract tailored finance and investment, as well as establish business linkages to meet the scale and standard of the continental market.