Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland joined policy makers and representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from more than 20 Commonwealth countries in Nairobi, as trade between member states continues its upward trajectory.
Hosted by Kenya’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, this second Intra-Commonwealth SME Trade Summit (ICSA) provided a platform for businesses to showcase their products and services and network with private and public sector leaders to forge new business relationships, as well as position their firms as credible partners.
The summit also brought together high-level policy-makers from ministries of trade and industry across the Commonwealth to exchange information about their schemes for promoting international trade, strengthening SMEs and linking them to the global economy.
Peter Munya, ministry cabinet secretary thanked the Commonwealth for facilitating the high level gathering in Kenya.
In a keynote address to the summit, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Our latest data shows trade in goods alone has increased by about $40 billion in 2017.
“Today, intra-Commonwealth trade amounts to almost 20 per cent of the total global trade of the Commonwealth. And there is immense potential for trade within the Commonwealth to grow yet more.”
Among the most pressing items on the summit’s agenda are making it easier for SME’s, which are responsible for more than 80 per cent of Africa’s employment and 50 per cent of its GDP, to obtain finance and improving access to the digital marketplace.
The Secretary-General added: “Access to trade finance is high among the constraints faced by SMEs – especially those in small states.
“Several Commonwealth member countries, both developed and developing, are pioneers and innovators in the digital space. When it comes to fintech, some of our Sub-Saharan African members are already global leaders. Being in Nairobi, I pay tribute to Kenya’s M-Pesa system, which has led the mobile money phenomenon to the point of becoming a global benchmark.”.
The summit also facilitated meetings between buyers and sellers to discuss trade and joint ventures in seven sectors which have been identified by ICSA for trade and investment promotion.
These are: textiles and clothing, gems and jewellery, leather and leather products, agro-processed products, light manufacturing, packaging, information and communication technology, E Health and Medical Equipment.
The Secretary-General said the summit was taking place at an opportune moment with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) coming into force which she said provides a promising opportunity for Commonwealth African members to grow their trade and investment.