African entrepreneurs can apply for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) Vision Challenge and stand a chance to receive investment from top development finance institutions (DFIs) and banks.

The roster of DFIs and banks that would invest in the selected entrepreneurs and businesses include the African Development Bank, the Trade Development Bank, African Export-Import Bank, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Africa Finance Corporation, Equity Bank, Ecobank, and the Commercial International Bank.

The AfCFTA Vision Challenge is part of the AfCFTA Secretariat's Vision Initiative. The Initiative aims to increase access to funding and technological capacity for startups, small and medium enterprises, innovators and entrepreneurs across Africa. The Vision Initiative was launched in partnership with Sankoree Institute of AfroChampions on the back of the AVRIVA programme and in support of the African Union (AU) Open Corridor.

The deadline for AfCFTA Vision Challenge application is December 22. It is open to ideas and solutions in eight issue areas: health, agriculture, infrastructure, good governance, trade/integration, technology, manufacturing, and environment. Social enterprises can also apply.

The AfCFTA Agreement created the AfCFTA Secretariat, which operates independent of the AU, to coordinate its successful implementation. The Sankoree Institute is the thought leadership for change platform set up by AfroChampions, pan-African institutions, and the AU.

Ratified by 54 African countries, the AfCFTA would take effect from January 1, 2021. Before then, Heads of State and Government would be holding a summit on December 5, 2020, to lay the foundations for the significant development in continental trade.

The AfCFTA creates a continent-wide free trade area. It's a cornerstone of the AU's Agenda 2063 which aims to transform the continent into a global powerhouse. The AfCFTA is expected to deliver on the goal of inclusive growth and sustainable development.

"There are many things we must get right to ensure that Africa derives the full range of benefits from the AfCFTA. Some things might take a while, but creating powerful connections through institutional partnerships and technology can start immediately. And there is no time to waste", Francis Mangeni, Director of Trade Promotion and Programme at the AfCFTA, said.

"We want to propel SMEs and startups by opening doors for them to places where they could never previously have entered, not only for capital but also for capacity building".

The AfCFTA maximises Africa's advantages: the youngest workforce in the world, abundant natural resources, and exceptional creative, cultural and intellectual resources, according to the joint-statement from the AU and AfroChampions.

But in order for the Agreement to gain rapid traction, the continent’s innovators and entrepreneurs must be equipped with the tools and resources they need to solve the barriers in its way.

How to apply for the AfCFTA Vision Challenge

  • Get your AfCFTA Number from the main AfCFTA App. The AfCFTA Number is a pan-African trusted identity for businesses. The app simplifies KYC procedures, provides the base for a continental credit referencing system, and allows traders to submit required trade documents electronically, thereby minimising the costs, delays and inconvenience of paperwork obstructing greater inter-African trade.
  • Visit the AfCFTA Vision Challenge website and apply.