Countdown to IATF 2021: Revival of the African economy and AfCFTA


Afreximbank, in collaboration with the African Union, has hosted the third in a series of five live events as a countdown for the African continent’s premier trade event, the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021), which is to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, from 6 – 12 September 2021 under the theme ‘Building bridges for a successful AfCFTA’. 

Antoine Kajangwe, Director General of Trade and Investment, Ministry of Trade and Industry of Rwanda, spoke about initiatives that have enabled attractive investment opportunities across multiple sectors, such as agriculture, ICT, infrastructure, mining and tourism. He said: “For years, we have been trading in silos; but economies of scale mean a larger market is open for business and industries can produce and trade more with a competitive advantage, which is what AfCFTA stands to provide. Rwanda has prioritised energy development as a sector, for example”.

Dr. Afua Asabea Asare, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Export Promotion Authority, said the IATF is crucial for Ghana to look at value chains and trade and development across the continent. She mentioned several projects Ghana has been involved in and some of the opportunities. “It enables an opening-up of the African continent; so rather than merely trading with West Africa, ECOWAS, we are doing so with other parts of Africa.”

Guy M’Bengue, Chief Executive Officer, Cote d’Ivoire Exports Promotion Agency, spoke about why it is important to participate in the IATF before regional integration of the AfCFTA. He spoke about helping SMEs and forging an agreement with ITC and Afreximbank, Nigerian and Rwandan export boards, for dealing with AfCFTA, export-readiness, market research, export development, risk management and skills, and helping cocoa producers in Cote d’Ivoire.

Jean Bertrand Azapmo, Principal Adviser to the AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry Department of Trade and Industry, African Union Commission, discussed the impact of COVID-19 and logistics and importance of the IATF: because it “unified fragmented and disjointed African economies, still surviving the brunt of the colonial economic system, bringing them closer to each other and asking the private sector to increase trade once they grasp the opportunities in other parts of Africa”. Jean Bertrand Azapmo spoke about SMEs and youth, and how at IATF 2021 there will be 150 slots for African youth startups.

“The IATF is something that will not only help the continent recover from the pandemic but also address the structural impediments holding the continent back, and achieve structural transformation.”

John Rocha, Chief Director, Trade Invest Africa, Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, spoke about export and import councils unlocking opportunities for the AfCFTA. As part of their strategy, they created 18 export councils covering clothing, footwear, leather, mining processing, agriculture, fruit and all major industry sectors of the South African economy.

John said: “We work with companies by enabling them to participate in the IATF and national pavilions around Africa, taking them on trade missions to markets around the continent, and enabling African companies to come into South Africa looking for suppliers and buyers of their products. All these activities are financed by our department; we have developed an international export strategy and the IATF helps us to communicate with our trading partners around Africa”.

He spoke about COVID-19, which has drastically affected the economy; borders and ports are closed for export and import, and this has reduced trade by about 50%. They have organised virtual webinars and exhibitions with Zambia, Ghana and Mozambique discussing post-COVID measures, and hope to replicate this in East and North Africa.

John added: “Our approach to the continent is anchored on three pillars: Firstly, intra-African trade, which we need to increase significantly as it hovers at only 16%. Secondly, a huge desire to work with our sister-countries around the continent to promote industrialisation. Thirdly, we also have to invest in our infrastructure as we are often better connected with markets worldwide than with each other in terms of logistics and supply chains, and we would like to invite countries to begin that conversation”.

He said further that Africa needs to start looking at import substitution and producing goods locally. In terms of preferential procurement, African countries spend US$400billion annually on construction projects, paying foreign companies to do business in Africa.

John concluded by saying: “We need to develop value chains – e.g. we import tyres but West Africa produces rubber, so we need to add value by manufacturing with our raw materials, including making PPE”.

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