President Abdel Fattah al Sisi of Egypt, participating in the third Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2023) in Cairo, called on countries across the continent to consolidate their efforts and promote intra-African trade.
In an address at the Presidential Summit of the trade fair, the President said that Africa’s huge natural resources and its agricultural, educational and mineral potential should be leveraged to drive intra-African trade, adding that there was need for African nations to cooperate positively towards mutual growth.
“As you can see, the capabilities exist and the possibilities exist, but there may be some obstacles and problems that hinder this work,” he said. “Therefore, we in Egypt should always build, develop, rebuild and cooperate in these fields, and nothing less.”
The President expressed the hope that IATF2023 would contribute to the growth of local economies and help overcome existing challenges by fostering regional partnerships, saying that such events were crucial to elevate intra-African trade to the desired level.
Earlier, Prof. Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), said that, working with the African Union Commission and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, Afreximbank had supported the delivery of critical AfCFTA-enabling instruments, including the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) which was making intra-African payments quicker, cheaper, more efficient and in African currencies.
“Afreximbank supports PAPSS with a settlement and clearing fund of US$3 billion,” said, adding that the African Collaborative Transit Guarantee Scheme had also commenced operations in the COMESA Region with Afreximbank as the regional guarantor, making the movement of goods across Africa’s 110 multiple borders easier, faster, and cheaper.
“In combination with the PAPSS, the Transit Scheme will reduce the foreign currency cost of paying for transit bonds,” Prof. Oramah said.
He added that the AfCFTA Adjustment Fund had also been established and would be operational by early next year on US$1 billion which Afreximbank approved in its support.
Earlier, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman of the IATF2023 Advisory Council and former President of Nigeria, said that the IATF had been a success to date, recording significant milestones, including the introduction of the African Buyers Programme, in the thrust to promote greater trade among African nations. He thanked the Government and people of Egypt for agreeing to host the event at short notice.
“When I look at what has been achieved since November 9, when this edition of our trade fair got off to a start, the word that comes to my mind is outstanding,” Chief Obasanjo said, commending participants for the large number of deals signed and initiatives introduced for the benefit of Africa.
Also speaking, Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, praised Egypt for hosting the IATF for the second time and for supporting the implementation of the AfCFTA. He noted that Egypt had taken the lead in establishing the AfCFTA Trading Company which aimed to strengthen ties among the member countries of the AfCFTA.
Mr. Mene announced that a protocol for investment was in place and that efforts were being made to establish an investment protocol which would assist in the development of the Pan-African Trade Investment Agency to facilitate investments across the continent and support economic growth.
In his own remarks, Albert Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Minerals, said that intra-African trade and the AfCFTA were the gateway to prosperity for the countries of Africa.
IATF2023, Africa’s largest trade and investment fair started on 9 November and runs until November 15. It is expected to attract over 1,600 exhibitors and 35,000 visitors, with trade and investment deals worth US$43 billion projected to be concluded during the event.