Trade fairs to reverse business barriers and absurdities in Africa

Trade fairs to reverse business barriers and absurdities in Africa

Initiating the Intra-African Trade Fair has the propensity to reverse some of the absurdities and barriers identified in Africa’s trade patterns.

This anticipated reversal through trade is a means to address the fact many African countries import from outside Africa at a much higher cost the same products neighbouring African countries export to the world at a lower price.

Trade experts say reversing these anomalies requires a deliberate effort to connect African buyers and sellers, and deepening knowledge of Africans about the continent by facilitating least-cost access to trade and investment information.

These and many other initiatives are what the Intra African Trade Fair event offers to Africa and its partners, and organisers are fulfilling a key deliverable under the African Union’s Boosting Intra-Africa-Trade (BIAT) strategy.

The available proof-of-concept is the first Intra-Africa Trade fair held during December 2018 in Cairo, Egypt, which was a resounding success. It attracted 1,100 exhibitors and about 7,000 participants from 45 countries, and facilitated the signature of deals worth about US$32billion.

So far, about US$25billion of the deals have been implemented with another US$2.5billion being processed, representing an incredible success rate of 83 percent – while the real impact on real people has been appreciable.

Resulting from the maiden edition held in Egypt, a young Nigerian entrepreneur who participated in the 2018 trade fair (thanks to the Elumelu Foundation) was identified by Singaporean investors at the Trade Fair and now produces drones for agricultural purposes in Singapore.

Again, it was at the 2018 Trade Fair that the government of South Sudan and El Sewedy Electric of Egypt entered a deal that led to the development of a major solar power project in South Sudan.

Another impactful result the 2018 Trade Fair brought was the largest intra-African EPC contract for a hydroelectric power project, in an amount of US$2.9billion and which was signed between the government of Tanzania and two leading Egyptian engineering firms, namely El-Sewedy Electric and Arab Contractors – with the financing coordinated by Afreximbank and fully supported by a consortium of African banks.

The project, according to experts, will generate 2,100 Megawatts of hydroelectric power; representing 42 percent of the Tanzanian goal of generating 5,000 Megawatts by 2025, and creating over 6,000 jobs in Egypt and Tanzania.

These and more were contained in an address delivered by the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank, Prof Benedict Oramah, at the 2nd edition of Intra-African Trade Fair currently underway in Durban, South Africa.

According to him, the platform organisers have created does not end at showcasing the array of products and services offerings available in Africa.

“We follow the signed deals to ultimate closures. We provide financing and advisory services to attract African and international partnerships into projects; and where projects are only at a concept stage, we avail our Project Preparation Facility to bring the concepts into bankable propositions,” he stressed.

The Fund for Export Development in Africa (FEDA) is a subsidiary of Afreximbank and steps in if equity becomes a binding constraint; and as can be easily identified, the IATF platform offers a comprehensive solution to trade and financing issues.

“When you enter as an exhibitor, you become a member of that one family under the umbrella of political support provided by the African Union, standing on the regulatory platform offered by the AfCFTA, and propelled by the financial and ancillary services offered by Afreximbank and its partners,” he added.

The Intra-African Trade Fair is a collaborative effort of Afreximbank, African Union Commission (AUC) and AfCFTA Secretariat, along with other key partners including the African Development Bank (AfDB), UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and AfroChampions Initiative.

Other partners include the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), World Trade Centre (WTC) Miami, Pan-African Chamber of Commerce, and Invest Africa as well as AeTrade Group.

The journey began in 2018, when the Fair’s first edition was held in Cairo under the auspices of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

The second edition which is ongoing was planned to be held last year in Kigali, Rwanda, but was postponed due to ravages of the COVID-19 Pandemic that affected timely delivery of the brand-new Exhibition Centre the government of Rwanda was constructing to host the event.

In the end, it was agreed among all parties that, given the importance of holding the Trade Fair in the year of the AfCFTA’s commencement of trading, it was necessary to find another destination with ready infrastructure to host a Fair.

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