Professional accountants must empower the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement
In support of Africa’s masterplan for transformation – the African Union Agenda 2063 – the AfCFTA was launched to increase productivity and economic growth of member states through trade liberalisation across the continent. Its successful implementation will position Africa for global competitiveness, leveraging its 1.2bn people to become the world’s largest continental free trade area.
The evolving role of accountancy and finance professionals is critical for creating a better world, with seven priority areas for the profession identified in ACCA’s 2022 report, Accounting for a Better World. If Africa is to achieve its grand agenda for trade liberalisation, accountancy and finance professionals must improve their understanding of how to interpret these priorities in the context of AU2063.
Our survey of more than 1,600 professionals across 22 PAOs revealed a concerningly low level of awareness of, and participation in, the AfCFTA by accountancy and finance professionals. This discovery led to further consultations with finance, business, and trade experts across the continent.
A deep dive into the current state of trade in Africa highlights the critical barriers to intra-continental trade and to realising the potential impact of the AfCFTA. This forms the basis of our in-depth assessment of the profession’s role in overcoming identified barriers, and the competencies needed to do so.
Our research uncovers interconnections between identified systems, referred to here as ‘ecosystems’, which are key to realising the AU2063 trade integration through the AfCFTA. Critical steps for professionals to break barriers between and build bridges across these ecosystems are then explored alongside opportunities for the profession.
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Summary of next steps for the profession in empowering the AfCFTA
|Ecosystem haromnisation||Trade priorities for the profession in Africa||Critical steps for the accountancy profession to enable intra-African trade|
|Professional services||Build essential capabilities for professionals to deliver key priorities||
· Harmonise accounting standards
· More emphasis on soft skills
· Better use of emerging technology
|Institutions||Develop efficient public-private partnerships to facilitate trade-enabling functions||
· Create a forum to discuss regulatory standardisation
· Increase engagements with government on the financial impact of policies and regulations relating to intra-continental trade
· Facilitate finance training to improve understanding and share best practices
|Business||Empower sustainable businesses||
· Enable businesses to take advantage of emerging opportunities using sustainable business models
· Advocate for the adoption of international standards to build trust and investor confidence, enabling businesses to access alternative sources of finance
· Create business forums to bridge information gaps and share tools to operationalise the AfCFTA
|Finance||Enable efficient and sustainable finance for intra-continental trade||
· Create a fintech forum to develop more sustainable fintech applications
· Advocate for and inform the development of alternative financing methods
· Serve as a super-connector, building trust between multilateral development partners
|Policy and political||Advocate trust and transparency||
· Develop research insights to inform trade-friendly policies and laws
· Build public trust and reduce bureaucracy, enabling a sustainable business environment
· Facilitate trade policy dialogue in collaboration with the African Union
"AU2063 provides an opportunity for accountancy and finance professionals in Africa to demonstrate their priorities for building a better world through trade integration in Africa. "Jamil Ampomah, Director - Africa, ACCA
1. AU2063 provides an opportunity for accountancy and finance professionals in Africa to demonstrate their priorities for building a better world through trade integration in Africa.
2. With intra-continental trade being a key vehicle for achieving sustainable economic development in Africa, the AfCFTA presents a major opportunity for the accountancy and finance profession to play a super-connector role, driving collaboration, inclusiveness, and improved efficiency.
3. Sustainable intra-continental trade requires the integration and effectiveness of several interconnected ecosystems, where accountancy and finance professionals will increasingly play critical roles
4. The barriers to intra-continental trade across identified ecosystems must be understood, as must the identity of the key players to be supported, collaborated with, and led by accountancy and finance profession, in maximising the benefits of the AfCFTA agreement.
5. Accountancy and finance professionals must be more aware of the impact of the AfCFTA agreement to better support key players, including MSMEs, the public sector, standard setters, non-finance professionals, and policymakers, across ecosystems.
6. To enable accountancy and finance professionals to play a multifaceted role, they must develop both the technical and soft skills they will need to break both finance and non-finance barriers to trade, across ecosystems.
7. Enhancing the profession’s role in trade actualisation will require an increased proficiency in technology to enable accountancy and finance professionals take advantage of emerging opportunities in Africa.
8. The profession must increase its advocacy and dialogue in the development of sustainable and feasible trade and finance policies at national level to improve country-by-country operationalisation of the AfCFTA.