2nd Annual Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Forum “Start-up Acts: Fostering Development and Innovation in Africa.”

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About the 2nd Annual Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises Forum.

The African Union led by the department of Economic Development, Trade. Tourism, Industry and Minerals Department (ETTIM) is organizing the second MSME Forum under the theme “Start-up Acts: An Instrument to Foster Development and Innovation in Africa’’. This is one of the initiatives in implementing the African Union Small Medium Enterprises strategy. Start-up Acts can significantly improve private sector development and consequently, economic development as they provide a framework and business environment that is predictable and makes it easier for start-ups to operate.

The Acts include an amalgamation of policies intended to increase the incentives for young people to start a venture, investors to put their money into promising companies, and other ecosystem actors to lend their support where it’s needed. Tunisia and Senegal are the two first movers in this arena on the continent with their Acts adopted in 2018 and 2019 respectively. These policies are part of broader government strategies to position their countries as innovation hubs by leveraging an emerging tech ecosystem to improve economic development.

The 17th Extraordinary Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification held in Niamey, Niger on 25th November 2022, called on member states to commit to enhancing domestic resource mobilization to ensure sustainable financing of Africa’s industrialization, this includes the support of the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Africa. This is a recognition of the role they play in structural transformation as well as job creation.

The African Union Small, and Medium Enterprises Strategy (SME) Strategy and Master Plan, provides guidelines for promoting intra-regional and intra-African trade by integrating African MSMEs into regional and global value chains. The vision of the AU SME Strategy is to “develop competitive, diversified and sustainable economies underpinned by dynamic, entrepreneurial and industrial sectors that generate employment, reduce poverty and foster social inclusion”.


Thematic focus of the Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises Forum.

The Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) are important drivers of economic growth and development in Africa, they account for over 90% share of the total employment rate on the continent however, MSMEs also account for about 30% of exports hence the need for support and development of this sector in Africa. Despite MSMEs’ significant role in the development of African economies, they have yet to be fully integrated into the regional value chains system consequently the continental trading system.

Presently, intra-Africa trade stands low at 14.4% of total African exports (Africa Renewal, 2023). Major contributions to these levels of trade experienced are from MSMEs in the continent, most of which are in the manufacturing sector. MSMEs penetrate global markets by exporting through clusters, joining global value chains (GVCs), and exporting directly or indirectly. In that sense, SMEs need to exploit opportunities offered by clusters and GVCs, representing opportunities to penetrate markets and learn through the diffusion of information and knowledge.

Stronger participation by MSMEs in global markets can help to strengthen their contributions to economic development and social well-being, by creating opportunities to scale up, accelerating innovation, and enhancing productivity. In addition, greater flexibility, and capacity to customize and differentiate products can give MSMEs a competitive advantage in global markets relative to larger firms. SMEs dominate some niche international markets, and innovative small enterprises are often key partners of larger multinationals in developing new products or serving new markets.

With MSMEs accounting for a substantial amount of economic activity in the country, the AfCFTA provides an opportunity for them to export to other African countries, thus boosting intra-African trade. The single market brings together more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of more than US$3.4tn (African Union, 2020).

It is therefore imperative that MSMEs fully comprehend the agreement to leverage its opportunities for expansion and help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their activities. It is important to note that countries must fully benefit from trade integration, enabling them to realize sustainable economic growth.


The 2nd Annual MSMEs Forum will be carried out over 5 days and will take place in the following format:

1. Training sessions will take place from the 5th to 8th September 2023.

2. Gala Dinner and an awards ceremony.

3. The AU MSME Market Place (exhibition) will take place from day 2 – 4 of the forum.

4. Innovative Financing for African Start-ups and Small Business Growth, organized by the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI).

5. Closed session: the concertation meeting on the Establishment of the African

Industrialization Fund organized by the African Union Commission Department of Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Minerals (AUC-ETTIM).

6. Closed session: An Expert Working Group Meeting (EGM) for Ministries, Departments, and Agencies in charge of MSMEs organized by the AUC-ETTIM, International Trade Centre (ITC), and the All-Africa Association for SMEs (AAASME).

7. Closed session: An EGM on the Enterprise Innovation and Modernization Programme, SME/I Cluster and Network Programm organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Other meetings on the sidelines of the AU MSME forum.

The following meetings will also be held during the five days on the side-lines of the forum:

  • ▪  First Inter-Institutional Coordination Mechanism of the Development Financial Institutions; and
  • ▪  Briefing Session of the AU Champion on Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization and Productive Transformation on his vision and how he wants to undertake the activities of his office.


Objective and Expected Outcomes of the Forum.

The main objective of the AU MSME Annual Forum is to promote, upskill, and strategize for a better, more inclusive African SME sector to realize Africa’s Industrialization in the context of the integrated market.

The specific objectives of the forum are as follows:

▪  Promote policies for the development and growth of MSMEs in Africa;

▪  Support the development of MSMEs through inclusive market and value chain


▪  Provide MSME technical support through various training in e-Commerce, Digital Marketing, Financing, Quality infrastructure, and Standards, among others.

Expected outcomes of the meeting.

The Event will have three-facet objectives, namely:

▪  Improve the MSMEs’ capacity on the various training topics offered by our training partners.

▪  Establish a platform for policymakers and the private sector to interact on the technical aspects of the MSMEs and start-ups’ Development, share knowledge, and formulate concrete innovative proposals to bridge the MSMEs/SMIs financial gap in Africa.

▪  Regional and continental collaboration between private sectors and public institutions particularly local banks and Multilateral Development Financial Institutions on the support of MSMEs.



Participation at the Annual Forum.

The forum will gather MSMEs in Africa across the following value chains; manufacturing, pharmaceutical, agro-processing, apparel, logistics, and the creative industries. The forum will also bring together policymakers from Senior level Representatives of the AUC, RECs, Member States, UN agencies, and Development Partners Institutions (from ministries, central banks, and regulators), as well as academics working on this subject, MSME finance advocates, and diverse market participants covering the whole eco-system (banks, microfinance institutions, investment funds, incubators, accelerators, fin-techs, leasing companies, credit guarantee companies, business angels, crowdfunding platforms, development cooperation frameworks) and multilateral development finance institutions.

Benefits of MSMEs taking part include:

▪  Exhibit your innovations. Position your organization, innovative solution, and partnership potential on a global stage.

▪  Gain international exposure. As an exhibitor, the event offers numerous ways to promote your innovations to our influential and international audience before, during, and after the event. These include stand promotion via event communications and website and interaction with other participants.

▪ Network: Join a host of great networking events on-site, such as B2B and Business to Government (B2G) lunches, specifically designed to bring MSMEs, start-ups, entrepreneurs, innovation hubs, and accelerators together with high- level decision-makers from government and industry, to discuss opportunities, build partnerships, share knowledge and make meaningful connections

▪ Win an award. The most exciting ideas showcased during the start-up pitching session will also win a special SME award from the AUC for their innovative solutions and creativity.

AUC-ETTIM has partnered with the following organizations: AUDA-NEPAD, African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), ImpactHer, Afreximbank, ITC, and UNIDO, to provide training sessions on various topics that will enhance MSMEs capabilities on the continent. Organizing partners include the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), the European Union Technical Assistance Facility (EU-TAF), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Read more of the previous edition of the Annual MSMEs forum here.

source: https://au.int/en/2ndAnnualMSME