Leaders sign historic 'Cape to Cairo' free trade deal
African leaders have signed a historic free trade pact to create a common market spanning 26 nations from Cairo to Cape Town.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) sets up a framework of tariffs designed to facilitate the free movement of goods within the specified area; the pact could have an enormous impact for African economies.
The TFTA pact was signed in Egypt by the country’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia and Mohamed Bilal, vice-president of Tanzania, at a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
It has been suggested that, once created, the free trade zone could an economy ranking 13th in the world, based on GDP. Currently only 12 percent of Africa’s trade is between countries within the continent but this number will almost certainly increase under the agreement.
Eventually, the deal will effectively integrate three existing African trading blocs representing a $1 trill GDP: the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
"The ultimate goal is to ensure easy movement of goods in these countries without duties," said Peter Kiguta, director-general of the East African Community.
Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Mounir Fakhri Abdel Nour told AFP the TFTA will help Africa boost trade and attract investments, while also building infrastructure and production capacities.
Companies across the region, and even those just trading with it, could potentially reap huge benefits stemming from harmonised trade, which reduce the cost of doing business, chiefly though the elimination of overlapping trade rules which the new deal will render obsolete.
"What we have realised is that having one trade regime is better than the costly multiple trade regimes," said Comesa secretary-general Sindiso Ngwenya, who led the negotiations among the three blocs.
This trade deal could very well bring about a business revolution for local, continental and multinational businesses; it will do so with the endorsement from the UN which in 2013 said that the continent must focus on creating "more space for the private sector to play an active role."
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.