AFRICA – The African Union(AU), through its development agency, is collaborating with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and Ecobank Group to support Micro and Small-Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) build capacity to face the economic and social challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The AU said that a continental framework has already been established for the support of the African MSMEs which form a large part of individual economies in the continent and have little or no absorption capacity to the effect of the pandemic. 

The MSMEs account for about 90 per cent of businesses in most African economies. 

The AUDA-NEPAD Chief Executive Officer, Ibrahim Mayaki, said the collaboration also involves the contribution of the Ecobank Group. 

The continental initiative, Mr Mayaki said, would involve the creation of a one-stop platform to address the issues, challenges and needs of MSMEs during and post COVID-19 pandemic period. The platform, he said, is “an all-encompassing, flexible and comprehensive one-size-fits-all tool for MSMEs in the formal and informal sectors across the continent.” 

Under the initiative, he said, opportunities and innovative ways to support and protect MSMEs and job opportunities have been identified. These, he said, cover opportunities in food and agribusinesses, technology startups, health specialised entities and those operating along with supply chain operations. 

Under the arrangement, Mr Mayaki said the initiatives would also support MSMEs to gain access to information, finance, and fiscal stimulus during the period of the pandemic. Besides, he said the platform would also ensure continuous access to national, regional and continental markets. 

They also hope to recommend to policymakers, solutions on domestic debts and other anticipated challenges due to the economic difficulties the Member States could face. 

Mr Mayaki noted that the COVID-19 pandemic which is affecting global economies, is widely expected to have a devastating effect on African economies and businesses. 

“AUDA-NEPAD and Ecobank Group intend to jointly build a continental platform based on our initial ‘100,000 SMEs by 2020’ campaign to provide an immediate response to the potential impact of COVID-19 on SMEs and job creation on the continent,” Mr Mayaki said 

The AUDA-NEPAD, he said, would leverage on its existing instruments, networks, and programmes to gather interest groups around a digital platform that showcases and monitors the progress made. 

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer, Ade Ayeyemi, said some of the African economies were more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19. 

He said a continental coordination was essential to support national measures by governments to curb the spread of the virus on the continent. 

Mr Ayeyemi identified MSMEs as a large part of individual economies in Africa with little or no absorption capacity to the effect of the pandemic. 

“Ecobank Group welcomes the opportunity to work with the AUDA to empower MSMEs with knowledge, resources, mentoring, technical expertise and financial support to ensure the sustainability of their businesses during and post COVID-19. 

“The objective of the continental platform is indeed aligned with the Ecobank vision of contributing to the economic and social development of Africa, our home,” Mr Ayeyemi said.