In a major step forward in the practical implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Economic Commission for Africa has launched an online trading platform that will facilitate trading between buyers and suppliers when the agreement starts next year.
Known as the African Trade Exchange (Atex), the business-to-business e-commerce platform will not only improve cross-border trade but also provide businesses with quality products from verified African suppliers in an efficient way at reduced average trading costs based on AfCFTA rules.
The goal for its creation was to provide a marketplace for buyers and suppliers to be able to transact and buy good quality products from the continent based on the AfCFTA rules, said Almoustapha Cisse, ECA’s acting director, division of technology, innovation, publication and knowledge management, who made the presentation.
He said the Afreximbank, with which it is collaborating to deliver the project, would serve as broker for most of the payment systems and the logistics which currently posed “a great challenge” to the continent.
ECA’s director of regional integration and trade division, Stephen Karingi, speaking on the importance of the electronic mode, described how many African small businesses had gone digital during the Covid-19 pandemic when supply chains had been broken and they needed to identify new ones.
“One of the things we’ve seen during this Covid-19 is the importance of having credible supply chains, and you can’t have credible supply chains unless businesses are working together,” he said. “Atex promises a platform that can help anchor AfCFTA which commences trading on 1 January 2021.”
“Payments are critical to international trade,” said Vitalis Uzor, representative of the Afreximbank. “Atex will develop an ecosystem of banks on the continent to support the traditional payment mechanisms for transactions completed on the platform.”
AfCFTA’s Francis Mangeni expressed confidence that with the successful operation of integrated payment systems in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), it would equally deliver an efficient and profitable platform for the continent.