Building capacity to help Africa trade better

World Export Development Forum 2018 held in Lusaka, Zambia


World Export Development Forum 2018 held in Lusaka, Zambia

World Export Development Forum 2018 held in Lusaka, Zambia
Photo credit: Mercator Media

The 18th World Export Development Forum (WEDF) was opened by Zambian Vice-President Inonge Wina, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Christopher Yaluma, and Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, on 11 September 2018.

Hosted by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Zambia’s Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, the two-day event explored how trade can work for the 99% and be made more inclusive, especially for youth and women. This was discussed under the theme ‘Scaling Up Through Trade: Skill, Innovate, Connect’.

Opening speech by ITC Executive Director Arancha González

Good morning, and welcome to you all!

I want to thank the Zambian government for partnering with the International Trade Centre to host this eighteenth edition of the World Export Development Forum.

Lusaka is an appropriate place for us to have gathered this week.

In some other parts of the world today, people and governments have lost enthusiasm for open markets. They are questioning the value of international cooperation on trade. They see international rules as a burdensome constraint on sovereign control.

Not here in Africa.

Africans have embraced economic integration: among neighbouring countries, within regions, at the continental level, and with the rest of the world. In March, I had the honour of being present in Kigali when leaders from across the continent established the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.

The message there was clear:

As others sought to retreat from international cooperation, African governments decided to move forward.

As others railed against trade, Africans recognized that the opportunities offered by trade exceed the downsides.

As others talked about taking back control, African countries affirmed that standing together makes them stronger than standing alone.

The Africa Continental Free Trade Area builds on African governments’ domestic reform agendas, as well as their work to implement the WTO trade facilitation agreement. And, it complements the trade and market integration that has been promoted through the regional economic communities. In this context I would like to congratulate the new Secretary-General of COMESA, Chileshe Kapwepwe, on her recent appointment.

Why are African countries keen to increase trade? Not because sending more merchandise and services across borders is a goal in and of itself. Trade is a means, not an end: a means to encourage value addition, increase living standards and create better jobs.

Continent-wide economic integration will create a larger market than that available in individual African countries or regions. For African businesses, this promises in turn to enable the productivity gains that come with increased scale and specialisation. For African consumers, it promises wider choices and better prices. The evidence suggests that when African countries trade with each other, the goods they exchange are more sophisticated than those they export to the rest of the world. This means deepening regional integration encourages diversification away from the primary commodities on which too many African economies continue to depend.

I am delighted that African Union Trade Commissioner Albert Muchanga is partnering with us on the ‘Youth Unconference’ which will help us to better reflect the views of the youth on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. I am also pleased that we will be presenting the first copy of ITC’s publication ‘Business Guide to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area’ to the Commissioner. It was after all his request that we developed such a guide for the business community.

But the true test of any trade policy is the impact it has on the lives of ordinary citizens.

And here I see two important challenges for African policymakers, businesses, and their partners. I am proud to say that ITC is doing its part on both.

Challenge one is that market-opening on paper does not automatically translate into increased cross-border trade. Bridging this gap requires hard infrastructure – the road, rail, air, electric and digital connections that enable the production and exchange of goods and services. But it also needs soft infrastructure: policies, tools, and information. Entrepreneurs and traders need a supportive, responsive policy environment. And they need access to intelligence about market opportunities and requirements in other countries.

The second challenge is about equity and inclusion: about ensuring that the gains from trade, and from growth more generally, are broadly shared. The backlash against trade we see in many advanced economies today has much to do with the fact that large sections of society felt excluded from prosperity.

In developing countries, people are generally more optimistic about trade, since the rising tide of growth has lifted wages across the income distribution. But even in developing economies, the biggest gains have also gone to people at the top. We may even now be sowing the seeds of a future backlash against globalisation – this time in developing countries. And there is another kind of exclusion: that of the many developing countries that remain on the margins of international value chains, supplying unprocessed raw materials, if anything at all.

The key to making our economies more inclusive – and the key to making international trade and investment work for the 99% – is micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises. Because MSMEs account for the vast majority of businesses and jobs, the more that they are able to become more competitive and connect to the global economy, the more the gains from trade will be broadly shared. The less productive and less integrated MSMEs are, the less likely we will be to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for the reduction of poverty and inequality.

This is why we are here in Lusaka. And it is why ITC has worked since 1964 to empower MSMEs to connect to international markets.

ITC is supporting African governments to bolster the soft infrastructure needed to make the most of sub-regional, continental, and global market integration. Across the continent, ITC has worked to ensure that trade facilitation reforms reflect the private sector’s experiences and needs. Working with local partners, we have surveyed businesses about the non-tariff measures that are keeping them out of export markets, and identified potential solutions at home and in trading partners.

Together with the African Union Commission, ITC is developing an African Trade Observatory to collect and analyse trade data from AU member states. It will enable public sector actors to monitor the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area, while giving businesses the information they need to make better investment and marketing decisions.

In the West African Economic and Monetary Union, ITC is engaged in a comprehensive effort to support increased intra-regional trade. In the East African Community, we are supporting agribusinesses to meet international market requirements and ramp up exports to Europe and elsewhere. Through triangular cooperation with China and India, we are seeking to ensure that inflows of investment from these new sources of financing go to MSMEs, not just a handful of well-connected large firms.

In The Gambia, ITC is supporting the government’s efforts to upgrade skills training and create economic opportunities at home for young people. And from North Africa to Burkina Faso, and Mali to refugee camps in Kenya and Tanzania, ITC is working to connect vulnerable communities – especially women – to international markets for furniture, textiles, and computer services.

The focus on women and young people is deliberate. When they are equipped to tap into international markets, the socioeconomic benefits are especially large and long-lasting. Here in Zambia, research shows that one of the silver linings of a major economic downswing in Copperbelt Province starting in the 1980s was that it brought large numbers of women into the workforce, in mining but especially in other sectors.

Over time, perceptions of women’s role in the economy shifted. Where working women were once viewed with suspicion, they are increasingly seen as examples for others to follow. When copper prices rose again, more women entered the workforce, notably in health and education. This is good for Zambia’s long-term prosperity. Excluding 50% of the population from the economy is no way to maximise growth or inclusiveness.

This is why I was so pleased that, together with the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), we launched SheTrades Zambia just yesterday. This will be an important platform to support women’s economic empowerment and take the amazing women-led MSMEs in Zambia to regional and international markets.

The World Export Development Forum is where trade policy concerns meet business practice. It is a conversation about what is working – and what needs to be improved – to make international markets work better for MSMEs and sustainable development. The topics we will address here – green finance, women in trade, skills upgrading for young people – go to the heart of trade’s intersection with the Sustainable Development Goals. Based on ITC’s own cutting-edge research, we will hear about how to build the support ecosystems businesses need to thrive in the digital age.

WEDF is not just about talking business, it is about doing business. This year’s business-to-business meetings will focus on agribusiness products and processing equipment. In response to business demand, buyers and sellers of packaging materials are also represented here. Packaging is an unsung hero of food safety, branding, and trade. Too frequently, however, packaging can be both unaffordable and a source of waste. It is possible for African businesses to leapfrog directly to sustainable packaging – and the contacts you will make here can help make that happen.

Over the next two days, we will hear from founders like Tiguidanke Camara, who in 2009 quit her New York modelling job and today heads Tigui Mining Group, Guinea’s only mining company that is headed by a woman. We will meet Michael Ocansey – the victor of last year’s WEDF pitching competition – whose Ghana-based startup allows smallholder farmers to cut out intermediaries and sell directly to buyers. We have already seen Rose Sibisi, who in addition to hosting a talk show is an inspiring entrepreneur in her own right.

And we will hopefully hear views from all of you in this room.

This week is about promoting smart packaging in Africa through our event with FAO and IMA yesterday; about women’s economic empowerment through SheTrades; about investment and business linkages through our B2B sessions; about Trade and Investment through the China-Zambia event that will be held directly after WEDF, about youth, trade facilitation, agri-business, and more. But of equal importance it is about making connections. Speak to each other. Learn from each other. Trade with each other.

Without further ado: let the show begin!

Closing speech by ITC Executive Director Arancha González

We have come to the end of three days of intense learning, sharing and collaboration. New partnerships have been forged. New friends have been made. And once again we have showed how Africa can deliver for Africa.

There have been many speeches so I want to just leave you with some figures:

  • More than 1600 people registered for WEDF from 60 countries

  • The first SheTrades chapter in Southern Africa: SheTrades Zambia.

  • One innovative Youth UNconference which placed a spotlight on the voice of young entrepreneurs and policy makers.

  • 4 publications launched including Faster customs, faster trade: Using technology for trade facilitation’ with Huawei Technologies, and the Business Guide to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement in partnership with the African Union Trade Commission.

  • 70 companies from 17 countries participated in the B2B.

  • 1500 Trade leads identified over 300 bilateral meetings.

  • Over 10 training and capacity building sessions held.

  • 6 plenary sessions ranging from tearing down Trade borders to agribusiness to women’s economic empowerment.

  • 100 local students and visiting from South Africa.

  • 6 amazing youth entrepreneurs pitching their ideas

  • All WEDF panels with gender balance

  • One amazing Zambian musician

  • More than 2000 tweets and Facebook shares on social media and you can find all of the photos from WEDF through our ITC app ITC at Hand so download it for your IOS 

  • One top trending twitter handle: WEDF18

  • And one amazing host country: Zambia 

I first want to thank the Zambian authorities and the Zambian people for the incredible welcome and effective hosting of this conference. Like so many countries Zambia’s economy is facing strong winds but I believe the country stands on firm ground and has the potential to strongly rebound and regain economic stability. That WEDF came to Zambia is a vote of confidence by ITC.

Zambia is a country that has made big progress but still has incredible unrealised potential. We at ITC know this because we have been working with Zambia and Zambian businesses for years. Zambian SMEs have been exposed to international buyers this week and have showcased the ingenuity and creativity of the products and services from this country. One only had to visit the exhibition this week to see this. From traditional weavers adding value to cotton to create beautiful textiles – a project supported by ITC – to Moringa infused peanut butter, teas and soups, to leather work and financial services: this is a country with so much to offer.

In my welcome speech I referenced that Africa – unlike some others – is embracing trade and integration. The AfCFTA is a vehicle to realize the aspirations of a borderless continent. What we have learnt here will be important inputs into that process:

  1. That trade facilitation at the border is only really effective if all parties modernize, increase transparency and cut down on red tape.

  2. That placing women and youth at the centre of Trade and development policy – including the AfCFTA – is critical if we are to deliver for inclusive growth.

  3. That adding value to goods and services, in particular in agriculture, and increasing the capacity to develop and extend value chains in Africa must be part of the Continental strategy.

  4. That the voice of youth matter. They will take forward tomorrow for what we are putting in place today. This morning I met with over 120 African youth to discuss trade and development issues and I can tell you the future is bright.

  5. That supporting the competitiveness of MSMEs must be at the centre of the Continental development trajectory. From ensuring financial literacy to meeting quality standards and packaging to supporting trade and investment data and intelligence to moving to automation and the digital economy- this is where the cursor must be placed; competitiveness rather than protectionism.

  6. That the future is green. Greening value chains, incorporating sustainability into production methods and promoting green financing.

These are just some of the important messages coming out of these 3 days of discussion. But this is only one part of solution. With identifying the constraints and the problems the next step is to create a blueprint for responding and reacting. Through the capacity building that we carried out in tandem with these discussions this week, ITC will continue to be your partner.

And the week does not end today. Thursday and Friday ITC will be supporting an investment discussion between China and Zambia through one of our flagship programmes the Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa (PIGA); we will be facilitating international media exposure of a series of projects that ITC and the EIF have supported in Zambia including on honey and mushrooms; and we will be facilitating a trade and investment discussion with trade promotion organizations from the COMESA region.

A word on the business-to-business meetings that were held this week. We saw 120 participants in the B2B exchange. Business was discussed and business was concluded. An early estimate is that deals potentially worth around US10 million are on the table.

You all know Moringa – the miracle tree. Moringa Wonder Plus Zambia Limited which is involved in organic production of moringa trees through transforming the leaves into a powder for its consumption. For this transformation process to be effective, machinery that does not alter the properties of the leave is required. Alpatech Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd from India has developed a unique expertise in processing machinery to produce healthy drinks and wine from fruits and honey. The company mainly presently in Asia is seeking new markets in Africa.

Moringa Wonder Plus Zambia Limited and Alpatech are now partnering to use Alpatech expertise and machinery to transform Moringa into powder in Zambia as well as to develop similar product lines in Zambia using mangoes, baobabs and avocados.

In addition, Moringa Wonder Plus uses chillies to create a natural protection barrier against pests’ around Moringa trees. As the company is currently expanding the tree plantations, Moringa Wonder Plus will buy large quantities of chillies that the Indian spices company “Ambodia Tee” is in a position to supply. This is what you can call a win-win-win-win.

Another story from the B2B is around honey. The Bee Hive Ltd. (Malawi) is involved in commercial bee keeping and produces high quality honey and honey by products including bee wax, royal jelly, pollen, propolis and bee venom targeting heath and eco conscious consumers.

The demand for their products outstrips the current supply. The Bee Hive is partnering with the a social enterprise from Zambia (Good Nature Agro) to scale up their production through a contract farming scheme in which The Bee Hive will provide technical assistance to Good Nature Agro and will buy the production of honey to meet the increasing demand in Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania.

The Bee Hive is also collaborating with Alpatech Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd(India) to use their expertise and equipment to add value to honey through processing into wine.

There has also been a lot of progress on the business aspect of harmonization of food safety. For example Selects Fruits Produce (Kenya) buys and sells sesame seeds, chick peas and groundnuts and it is facing shortages to supply the domestic market in terms of quality and quantities.

Malawi and Zambia are the main producers in the region but production from Zambia does not systematically carry out the toxicity tests required to sell in the Kenyan market where the agricultural products must be Aflatoxin free. Zambia is missing business opportunities as the country is lagging behind in terms of food safety regulations.

With ADMARC from Malawi, the marketing board entrusted with the commercialisation of Malawian produce, Selects Fruits Produce has found the quantity and quality that the company needs and there are discussions to place orders before the planting season to ensure a market for Malawian producers.

Another successful outcome has been seen with Garden of Zucchi (Zambia) which buys fresh fruits and vegetables to supply the local market. There is an unmet demand for avocado pears in Zambia while in Malawi the production of avocado pears is being discarded, as there is no market demand. An agreement has been reached that ADMARC (Malawi) will now act as the collection centre for avocado pears to sell the production to Zambia.

We have also seen success in pooling production to reach third markets. Miyonga Fresh Greens Ent (Kenya) is an export oriented company serving European markets. Dried mango is in high demand in Germany and domestic production is insufficient to supple to the German market.

Chankwakwa Ltd (Zambia) has no experience in exporting to the European market but it can supply dried mango to Miyonga Fresh Greens (Kenya) for re-exporting to Germany. This is regional cooperation in action.

And finally on adding value. E-Kulima from Kenya is involved in the transformation of fresh apple mangoes into puree for the subsequent transformation into mangoes juices.

The company needs to move up to the value chain and start the transformation of puree into juices to increase the shelf life of their products.

Alpatech Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd (India) is collaborating with e-Kulima based on its solid expertise in producing juices and wines from exotic fruits and helping them to move up the value chain and increase export revenues.

To conclude friends – this has been a successful WEDF2018 and a successful launch of SheTrades Zambia. I once again thank Zambia for its collaboration and leadership on this. Let me also recognise past WEDF hosts who are with us: Hungary, Sri Lanka, Qatar, Rwanda and China. And finally I would ask you to give a round of applause to my dedicated staff in the ITC who have been working for months to make this happen. They are dedicated, innovative and passionate.

The future is very bright for Zambia.

Thank you.


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