The organisers of the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021) have met with the business community in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to raise awareness and encourage private sector participation in the African continent’s premier trade and investment event.
Organised by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) in collaboration with the African Union (AU) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, IATF2021 will take place in Durban-KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, from 15 to 21 November 2021.
In his opening remarks, Dr. George Elombi-Executive Vice President, Governance, Legal & Corporate Services, Afreximbank said: “Côte d’Ivoire is the third-largest economy in ECOWAS, and is the largest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA); and it contributes about 32% of UEMOA’s GDP.
“Afreximbank avails itself to support Côte d’Ivoire in addressing its constraints to industrialisation by supporting infrastructure needs and facilitating the production of value-added exports and services through development of agro-processing, light manufacturing and tradable service sectors, while ensuring that the produced goods and services are traded.
“Over the last five years, the Bank has disbursed to Côte d’Ivoire entities (public and private) over US$3.1billion; and there is close to US$1.4billion worth of transactions in the pipeline spread across key sectors of the Côte d’Ivoire economy.”
Chief Executive Officer-Côte d’Ivoire Exports Promotion Agency (APEX-CI), President of WAEMU TPO Network & IATF2021 Ambassador Mr. Guy M’Bengue, stated that: “Under my leadership, APEX-CI was behind two initiatives to take advantage of the AfCFTA; the creation of two Business Councils, the WAEMU Network (ROPC-UEMOA) and ECOWAS Network (ROPC-ECOWAS).
Objectives included pooling resources at the WAEMU and ECOWAS regional level to start and benefit from the AfCFTA; promoting regional value chains; setting up a dedicated infrastructure of contact networks; strengthening intra- and extra-regional trade and strengthening the export culture, particularly at the SME level and among young people.
In a keynote address, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Côte d’Ivoire H.E. Souleymane Diarrassouba, commented: “Côte d’Ivoire wants to go further in its diversification policy and increase foreign trade through the implementation of its Plan of National Development 2021-2025, amounting to CFAF 59,000 billion; acceleration of the structural transformation of the economy through industrialization; and the development of agribusiness, chemicals and plastics, building materials, furniture and equipment, pharmaceutical industry, industry textile, packaging and assembling of vehicles”.
Deputy Chairperson of the IATF2021 Advisory Council and former President and Chairman of the Board of Directors-Afreximbank, Mr. Jean-Louis Ekra said: “We all know that intra-African trade is very low at around 15% of total African trade. This means that we are trading 85% with outsiders rather than with our neighbours. The main reason why intra-African trade is low is lack of access to trade and market information.
“Accordingly, the Intra-African Trade Fair is one of the practical ways of bridging the trade and market information asymmetry. We also need to use the large market that is created by the AfCFTA to catalyse industrialisation and value addition, and move away from overdependence on commodity exports.”
Ms. Alinah Mailula, 1st Secretary Political, South African Embassy, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, in a closing remarks said: “For Africa to be able to attain sustainable development, we can no longer rely on those outside the continent to speak on our behalf. The AfCTA has created the largest free trade area in the world with the potential to generate US$2.1trillion and a real opportunity to speed up transport infrastructure development, boost trade by linking economic corridors and create jobs. We have made real inroads to peace, so we must take full advantage of the IATF 2021. Africa is open for business”.