AfCFTA has potential to end Africa’s colonial legacy: Ekra

The subject matter of the IATF2023 is "the AfCFTA marketplace".

THE Trade and Investment Conference is a component of Intra-African Trade Fair (ATF2023), the continent’s largest trade and investment show. Through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), it hopes to improve access to Africa's linked markets.

As the Trade and Investment Conference of IATF2023 got underway in Cairo, Jean-Louis Ekra, deputy chairperson of the IATF2023 Advisory Council and a former President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), stated that the AfCFTA could end Africa's colonial legacy of exporting raw materials and importing finished goods.

The Afreximbank  is organising the IATF2023 in conjunction with the African Union (AU) and the Secretariat of the AFCFTA. The subject matter of the IATF2023 is "the AfCFTA marketplace". According to the AU, the IATF2023 provides a platform for enterprises to access an integrated African market of over 1,3 billion people with a GDP of over US$3,5 trillion generated by AfCFTA.

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa attended the opening of the third edition of the IATF2023 on November 13, 2023.

Ekra, in his introductory remarks, emphasised the unsustainable nature of African economies that rely on natural resources and commodities, claiming  that this dependency exposes countries to unfavourable trade shocks, liquidity restrictions, and macroeconomic management issues.

The annual trade fair provided a platform for African trade stakeholders to interact, explore business prospects, and boost trade and investment across the continent.

"The Trade and Investment Conference is part of IATF2023, Africa's largest trade and investment exhibition,"according to the press release.

“Through the AfCFTA, it aspires to improve access to Africa's linked markets. The trade show is expected to attract over 1 600 exhibitors and 35 000 guests, with trade and investment deals worth US$43 billion expected to be signed during the event."

Afreximbank has granted Exodus & Company a US$141 million loan to develop land for industrial and residential developments.

The transaction was inked on Saturday at the IATF2023 by the business that created the Madokero industrial park in Harare.

According to a statement issued after the signing, the facility would be utilised to boost production by allowing Exodus to acquire and develop property for industrial and residential reasons.

"This strategic partnership with Afreximbank represents a significant milestone for Exodus & Co, confidence and support by several stakeholders in the firm's commitment to delivering high-quality and high-impact infrastructural projects, which can contribute to the socio-economic development of Africa," Progress Mambo, the chief executive officer of Exodus, said.

 Ekra argued that the situation needed to be addressed urgently because it had exacerbated the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions, and climate change, and that "AfCFTA cannot fail, especially given that intra-African trade is estimated at 16%", a level of trade that compared unfavourably with other regions.

He urged African countries to recognise that the AfCFTA was the continent's missing link, offering numerous trade and investment opportunities in manufacturing, export development, SME promotion, and trade in services.

In addition, Ali Basha, Egypt's minister of Plenipotentiary, welcomed guests to the conference and stated that the panels held as part of the conference should not be missed.

He asked African countries to "work together to address the challenges of trade integration".

The ceremony featured a hologram of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's former President and a key proponent of African unity.

Following panel discussions, visitors heard comments on a variety of themes, including energy transition and industrialisation in Africa, changing the manufacturing sector, and boosting African trade diversification.

During a panel discussion on Africa's energy transition and industrialisation, Ainojie Irune, chief operating officer of Oando Energy Resources, emphasised the need for African leaders to be more impatient about developing the continent, arguing that energy was critical to the continent's development and that the transition should benefit Africa, where 40% of the population lacks access to electricity.

Helen Brume, Afreximbank's director of projects and asset based finance, stated that any conversation about shifting to cleaner energy sources must take into account the fact that 600 million Africans still lack access to electricity, while 900 million need access to clean energy sources for cooking.

During a panel discussion on transforming Africa's manufacturing, Olukayode Pitan, former CEO and Managing Director of Bank of Industry, Gagan Gupta, founder and CEO of ARISE Integrated Industrial Platform, Manuel Mota, deputy CEO of Mota-Engil, and Brian Deaver, CEO of the African Medical Centre of Excellence, discussed the importance of establishing connectivity in Africa's supply chains. They agreed that such a revolution would considerably improve the lives of Africa's 1,5 billion people.

According to them, because African talent is essential to a thriving industrial sector, investing in their education and training was critical.

The statement from APO Group on behalf of Afreximbank concluded, "A highlight of the day was Professor Benedict Oramah, president and chairperson of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank, launching the impact evaluation report of the US$19-billion Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Complex in Nigeria."

 Emeka Uzoigwe, acting director of strategy and innovation at Afreximbank, who highlighted that the complex was established in 2018, emphasised the significance of the project's insights for other African firms, stating that it has the ability to alter not only Nigeria, but the entire West Africa.


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