Inaugural Intra-African Trade Fair to drive continent’s development of export manufacturing
The first-ever Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) to be held on the continent opened on Tuesday, 11 December 2018 in Cairo, Egypt with the President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Prof. Benedict Oramah, calling for the implementation of initiatives that will add meaning to that African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
“We need to implement initiatives that will add meaning to that singular event, initiatives that will catalyse a strong production/industrial base for production of export manufacturing, initiatives that will improve our knowledge of, and access to, trade and investment information and initiatives that will facilitate movement of goods across borders in competitive terms,” Prof. Oramah told participants in the IATF opening ceremony.
The IATF2018, organized by Afreximbank in collaboration with the African Union and hosted by the Government of Egypt, is taking place until 17 December 2018 under the theme “Transforming Africa Through Agenda 2063 Anchored on Integrity in Business”.
Prof Oramah said that the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement had sent a strong message to the world that Africa is ready to chart a new path, a path to economic independence and a willingness to look inward for industrial growth.
He said that Afreximbank was working to promote the emergence of robust continental supply chains and expressed confidence that the networking opportunities at the IATF would become a “potent force to begin to dismantle the well laid colonial structures that have disintegrated Africa for close to a century.”
Also addressing the opening ceremony were H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, Former Nigerian President and IATF Advisory Council Chairman; H.E Albert M. Muchanga, AU Commissioner for the Department of Trade and Industry; and H.E. Mostafa Madbouly, Prime Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
In his opening address, H.E. Obasanjo noted that the fair came after the successful signing of the AfCFTA, which seeks to enhance trade and economic growth across Africa, and expressed conviction that the IATF would contribute immensely to the implementation of the AfCFTA.
Chief Obasanjo described the trade fair as a crucial instrument in making the AfCFTA work and said that Africa should focus on “what trade is needed, where the markets are, the size of, and the standards in those markets, and how to join the value chains that serve them”.
“The African Continental Free Trade Agreement and events such as this Intra-African Trade Fair enthuse me about the prospects for Africa, and the opportunities to raise Africa’s bar to global competitiveness, which will be kick-started by intra-African free trade,” he said.
“It is our duty to create the environment where the entrepreneurial spirit of Africans can succeed. Stronger economies yield the rewards of better health, education, improved employment opportunities and prosperity for all. I want our future generations to have greater expectations, greater choices and greater opportunities to succeed. It should be their right and I want this to become the norm rather than the exception.”
He thanked Afreximbank and the AU for their foresight, initiative and hard work in promoting, organizing and opening the trade fair, from its announcement in Kigali in March 2018, to its implementation today.
In his statement, H.E. Albert Muchanga highlighted the importance of the IATF in bringing about economic transformation on the continent and called on all African Union Member States to ratify the AfCFTA and make a single African market of over 1 billion people a reality.
“If we are to create one African market, in line with the vision of the African continental free trade area, all African Union Member States must sign and ratify the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area. In this way, its landscape will be fully integrated.
“I am glad that the African Union Ministers responsible trade are here. I am sure they will do the needful and take us closer to realizing the vision of the African Union and Agenda 2063 which is: ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the global arena’,” he emphasized.
He urged the six AU Member States which have not signed the AfCFTA Agreement yet to do so, and called on countries that have signed to proceed forward with the ratification. Commissioner Muchanga expressed his confidence that by February 2019, the 22 ratifications needed for the Agreement to enter into force will be granted.
H.E Mustafa Madbouly voiced the Egyptian Government’s pleasure at hosting the IATF. “The free trade zone is a great achievement for African integration and the number of participants in IATF 2018 is an indication of the necessity of this type of intervention,” he said. He applauded the IATF for working with African entrepreneurs, to build African wealth.
The opening ceremony was concluded with the official inauguration of the IATF Exhibition Centre with a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by H.E Obasanjo.
Transactions worth about $25 billion are expected to be concluded at the IATF which has almost 1,100 registered exhibitors from 42 countries.