President and Board Chairman of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah, has given assurance that SMEs – especially those owned by young persons – will be given the necessary support to participate in the next edition of the Intra African Trade Fair (IATF 2023).
Speaking at the launch of the trade fair’s third edition to be held in Côte d’Ivoire, he acknowledged the critical role small businesses play as well as the constraints they face. This, he noted, has informed prior support to such entities and will define continued assistance, which includes the waiving of some fees.
“At the last trade fair we sponsored about 30 participants. We also waived exhibition fees; and those in the AU pavilion, we had AU trade supporting some of them. This is the kind of assistance we gave in 2021, and we are looking to see how we can play a more active role in supporting SMEs at the coming trade fair,” he explained.
Prof. Oramah also disclosed that of the 69 countries which participated at the week-long trade show last year, 46 were African – adding that trade embargoes due to political developments and COVID-19 related challenges prevented nine other countries from participating. He expressed optimism that at IAFT 2023 all 55 countries on the continent will participate.
He added that non-African countries which partake in the fair are allowed to do so solely on account of them exhibiting goods and services crucial to promoting intra-African trade.
“Be aware that the non-African countries we allow to participate are those which will be exhibiting things Africa needs to promote intra-African trade, especially investment goods. We welcome countries which come to exhibit things that are useful to Africa,” he emphasised.
The last edition of the biannual trade fair held in South Africa saw more than 32,000 participants and 1,500 exhibitors, with deals worth more than US$42.1billion inked.
He expressed belief that the next one will build on the former’s success.
Meanwhile, as debates around border closures and their possible impact on success of the free trade area continue to rage on, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, Wamkele Mene, gave assurance that stakeholders are working assiduously to address the matter.
“We now have 39 countries which are state parties to the agreement that established the AfCFTA; this means these countries accept they have obligations under the agreement,” he remarked.
“It is a matter of deep concern to us that transit of goods is uneven across the continent. It will take some time to get everything in sync, but we are committed to achieving this,” he added.