By Staff Reporter

Economic Commission for Africa office for North Africa and the Sudanese ministry of Trade launched on 18 December in Khartoum a four day, joint workshop on Export Promotion and Access to Finance for the benefit of 50 Sudanese SME owners, mostly women.

The workshop aims to strenghten Sudanese SMEs’ capacity to trade with the rest of the African continent and the world, seize new export opportunities within the framework of the AfCFTA and contribute to the transformation of the national industrial sector. Sudanese exports, which consist mostly of primary commodities such as gold, oil seeds or cattle, are currently very low, below 3% of GDP in 2021. Most exports go to China and Gulf countries, and only less than 20% to Africa, with Egypt being the main export destination on the continent. To help SMEs move upwards in the value chain, the training focuses on market access in Africa and product development strategies for SMEs as well as their access to finance.

SMEs account for 90 percent of enterprises around the world, including in Africa. They operate across the economy ranging from simple agricultural market-based vegetable production to industrial-related enterprises. In Sudan they are also the largest source of employment, providing livelihoods for over three-quarters of the working population, especially women. SMEs are also key in the attainment of the SDGs, given their strong link with some of the goals, particularly through GDP growth and job creation.

“In an enabling environment, SMEs have a high potential for creating employment and innovation. They can also contribute to reducing poverty and to empowering the poor so that they can realize their productive capacities and integration into society, said Zuzana Brixiova Schwidrowski, Director of the ECA office for North Africa. “It is imperative that the climate for SMEs start-ups and growth is enhanced considerably, with the assistance of the public sector and key players in the private sector, especially finance”, she added.

Since evidence from the rest of the continent shows that Intra-African exports tend to be less commodity focused and have more added value than exports outside the Continent, the AfCFTA is an opportunity for Sudan to boost value adding trade and diversify it, both in terms of commodities and trading partners, said Amal Elbeshbishi, economist at the ECA Office for North Africa. Increased SME contribution to trade and industry are of significant interest for Sudan. Government efforts to support SMEs growth and competitiveness are therefore critical, she added.

AfCFTA can be a game changer for SMEs and trade. ECA actively supports research and analysis of the AfCFTA’s impact on African countries. It also support the implementation of the AfCFTA at national, regional and continental levels.