Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) form the backbone of Ghana’s economy, representing more than 90% of private businesses, and employing about 72% of women and youth in the private informal sector and 68% in the private formal sector. The importance of the MSME sector is even more magnified, employing more than 80% of the workforce and generating 70% of the national output. According to the UNDP, more than 70% of cross-border traders are women and youth.
There are multiple, often inter-connected complex barriers to starting and conducting trading on the continent. These barriers tend to be significantly higher for women and youth-led SMEs. These barriers include issues of limited access to resources (land, finance, etc), and limited access to market information on trade, customs, and border regulations.
The African Continental Free Trade Area in 2021, provides an important opportunity for women and youth-led SMEs in Ghana. The agreement's objectives are to create a single, continent-wide market and enhance competitiveness at the enterprise level. According to the World Bank, Ghana’s intra-African trade is projected to double under the AfCFTA by 2035, anchored on revenues from value-added manufacturing, with women and youth benefiting the most.
To harness the full benefit of AfCFTA, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, through the National AfCFTA Coordination Office has initiated a Market Expansion Project. The project aims to support local companies with export potential to take advantage of the AfCFTA. As part of NCO’s 2022 Annual Workplan to boost the participation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in AfCFTA, 180 enterprises are being targeted to assess their export readiness. Out of which at least fifty (50) companies would be identified and supported to export under the AfCFTA regime. To achieve this, the NCO will undertake nationwide enterprise export-readiness assessments/audits on selected companies and SMEs to identify their needs and ascertain what it would take for them to access the AfCFTA market. The results of these assessments/audits will determine the technical, financial, and/or capacity-building assistance/interventions that would be provided to the targeted companies to export under AfCFTA.
The UNDP under the integrated MSME Support programme is also facilitating export readiness engagements and exposure for women and youth-led MSMEs to access new markets under the AfCFTA agreement. The support includes direct assistance to countries, training for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), creating links between MSMEs in different regions, research, and support for the development of trade-enabling technologies through the Accelerator Lab.
In the furtherance of the above, UNDP is collaborating with NCO to undertake a series of targeted supports to women and youth-led MSMEs to determine market potential in 6 districts in Ghana namely: Ketu South, Jomoro, Sefwi-Wiawso, Kumasi, Kassena Nankana West, and Sagnaerigu which form part of the larger objective of the NCO.