The first-ever Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) on the continent has kicked off in Cairo, Egypt, with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) leading calls for the implementation of initiatives that will add meaning to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The IATF, organised by Afreximbank, in collaboration with the African Union (AU), will end on December 17, 2018, is expected to attract about 70,000 visitors and conclude transactions worth about $25 billion, but already breaking the 1,000-exhibitor projections.
Afreximbank President, Prof. Benedict Oramah, said that the signing of the AfCFTA had already sent a strong message to the world that Africa was ready to chart a new path- a path to economic independence and willingness to look inward for industrial growth.
"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," he said.
According to him, Afreximbank was working to promote the emergence of robust continental supply chains, expressing confidence that the networking opportunities at the ongoing IATF would become a "potent force to begin to dismantle the well-laid colonial structures that have disintegrated Africa for close to a century."
Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also Chairman of the IATF Advisory Council, said the fair is coming after the successful signing of the AfCFTA, which seeks to enhance trade and economic growth across Africa.
Expressing conviction that the IATF would contribute immensely to the implementation of the AfCFTA, he 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".
"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."
The AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga, highlighted the important role of the IATF in bringing about economic transformation on the continent and called on all member states to ratify the AfCTFA and make the single African market of over one billion people a reality.Prime Minister of Egypt, Mustafa Madbouly, said that the AfCFTA represented a great achievement for African integration, adding that the large number of participants in the IATF was "an indication of the necessity of this type of intervention". He applauded the organisation of the IATF, which created the platform for working with African entrepreneurs to build African wealth.