The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has partnered with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to launch centres that connect local entrepreneurs to global markets and enhance regulatory conditions for SMEs to thrive.
The ECA – ICC Centres of Entrepreneurship in Africa will work with various stakeholders, including businesses, chambers of commerce, academic institutions, intergovernmental and governmental agencies.
The entrepreneurship centres will develop the skills of young people who face uncertain employment prospects to mentoring local start-ups and entrepreneurs. The centres are expected to develop the next generation of African business leaders.
Speaking during the virtual launch this week, Director of the Africa Centre for Statistics at the ECA Oliver Chinganya said the centres come at the right time when Africa is trying to build back better from the effects of Covid-19.
“We believe that these Centres, based in different regions of the continent, and with tailored-made solutions, can mobilise the next generation of entrepreneurship in Africa,” Chinganya said.
The centres will provide Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with the tools and pathways to expand their business and play an effective role in the goods and services supply chain, he said.
Chinganya said the centres will also provide pathways to accelerate women and youth empowerment, the fuel to accelerate Africa’s growth and recovery from the pandemic.
ECA data shows that MSMEs, often women and youth-owned, account for approximately 98% of all firms and 60% of the private sector employment in African countries.
They are a fundamental part of the economic fabric of African economies. The youngest and smallest SMEs contribute to 22% of net job creation on the continent.
Africa has the highest rate of new business creation, and that youth on the continent are 1.6 times more likely to be entrepreneurs, addressing challenges of high youth under- and unemployment, Chinganya said.
John Denton AO, ICC Secretary-General, said the entrepreneurship centres are an important platform to scale globally the most successful local and regional entrepreneurial initiatives driven by chambers of commerce and innovative partners.
“SME plays a major role in the economy and are contributors of employment and 40% of national income. But they are the most challenged on the continent. Their contribution could be higher if informal SMEs are included and are supported to thrive in the market,” Denton said.
He cited the lack of proper training on digitalisation, excessive business regulations in most countries, and poor infrastructure as some of the challenges faced by MSMEs and entrepreneurs in Africa.
“These are issues that need to be resolved in order for the entrepreneurs in Africa to compete with the others at the global market,” he said, adding that “ICC is committed taking a leadership role through these centres of Entrepreneurship to help SME and entrepreneurs in the region by raising awareness for potential opportunities.”