Alexander O. Onukwue
Accelerating business innovation is one of the potential gains that will make the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) truly revolutionary for Africa. To provide the enabling environment for an innovation culture to seep into and permeate entrepreneurship communities around the continent, the Africa Tech and Creative Group has opened ten ‘MyAfCFTA nodes.’
Spread around ten countries covering every region from West Africa to the North, the nodes will serve as “one-stop-shop for on the ground information and support around the technology and creative landscape in their regions,” a statement by the group said.
Launched mid-2019, the Africa Technology and Creative Group (ATCG) is a private organisation created by entrepreneurs, innovation hub owners, investors and interested professionals active in Africa’s technology and creative industries.
Signed in March 2018, the AfCFTA entered into its operational phase in July 2019. It is the world’s largest free trade area since the World Trade Organisation was created twenty-five years ago. The agreement will serve 1.2 billion people who generate a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion across the AU’s 55 member States.
It sounds like a pretty big trade deal, which is why the ATCG is bent on ensuring that the ideals of the agreement are executed for the benefit of all Africans. The group aims to achieve this mission by mobilizing grassroots actions in the tech and creative industry.
The ATCG nodes will be located in Co-creation Hub (Nigeria/Rwanda), Afrinolly (Nigeria), iSpace (Ghana), iHUB (Kenya), BongoHive (Zambia), HYBR Group (South Africa/Kenya/Nigeria), Sylabs (Algeria), the Tech Village Innovation Hub (Zimbabwe), Bliss Executives (The Gambia), and the Innovation Village (Uganda).
These organisations already exist as innovation hubs offering various support services to their business environments. As ATCG nodes, they will be interconnected to each other and will serve as flagship spaces for local business support. The hope is that they become resource centers that power information symmetry across the continent.
After its pioneering meeting in August 2019, the ATCG group was formally introduced to the Africa Union at an AU roundtable for innovation ecosystem stakeholders held in Kigali last October.
More than 80 participants from 30 African countries, working in startups, innovation hubs, media, film and music, attended that August meet-up, but the group now has more than 300 members.
“The true promise of AfCFTA is that we can enable African companies scale their businesses across Africa,” says Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, who leads the ATCG’s subgroup on Information and Business Network.
Referring to his own struggles in setting up and scaling Flutterwave and Andela, he points to a need for features in the African business community that enable seamless scale and growth across countries. Information on operational realities in different countries is one of such necessary features that can be more easily accessed if deliberate sharing mechanisms exist between various country ecosystems.
“I’m excited that today we have begun the journey of fulfilling that promise with the ATCG nodes,” Aboyeji said.
The nodes will provide businesses with a variety of services, including incorporation advice, access to market analysis for 10 African countries, and tax consulting.