In a bid to further strengthen economic ties across the African continent, Nigerian businesses are gearing up to expand their reach and play a pivotal role in the growth of intra-African trade.
This commitment was highlighted during the recent High-Level Business Roadshow held in Lagos, Nigeria, where experts and leaders discussed the significance of African economic independence and the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Mrs. Kanayo Awani, the Executive Vice President of the Intra-African Trade Bank, Afreximbank, set the tone for the event by quoting the words of Kwame Nkrumah, “Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs.”
She emphasized the need for collective efforts to address the continent’s economic challenges, despite achieving political independence.
Awani urged both the Nigerian public and private sectors to actively participate in and benefit from opportunities to foster intra-African trade, a key goal of AfCFTA. She called upon the government, financial institutions, and states to support and sponsor participants in trade fairs like the upcoming Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) in Egypt.
“That is why I’m charging the government, financial institutions, and states to support and sponsor participants to come to the trade fair in Egypt,” says Mrs Awani, who noted that Afreximbank has invested over US$36 billion into the Nigerian economy since its creation in 1993 through its trade and project financing initiatives. This support has covered a range of sectors and industries, including among others, energy, transport, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing and trade infrastructure.
“Afreximbank remains committed to contributing to Nigeria’s economic growth as evident in several flagship projects underway,” she reiterated. Among the projects are the US$300m 500-bed Africa Medical Centre of Excellence (AMCE) ongoing in Abuja in partnership with King’s College, London, the Afreximbank Africa Trade Centre (AATC), also in Abuja, and the Africa Quality Assurance Centre (AQAC) in Shagamu, Ogun State, which is already operational.
Mrs Awani also reiterated that Afreximbank is not only spearheading the IATF to support the AfCFTA but is also at the forefront of supporting African trade. The Bank has also developed financing and facilitation instruments to support trade and investment.
She emphasised that “Afreximbank intends to double its financing of intra-African trade to US$40 billion on a revolving basis by 2026, up from US$ 20 billion in 2021.”
Nigerian businesses are in pole position to lead intra-African trade growth and rapidly expand their footprint across the continent according to experts at today’s High-Level Business Roadshow in Lagos, Nigeria. Dr. Ezra Yakusak, Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), spoke about how the NEPC spearheads Nigeria’s participation at the IATF and extolled the benefits of the trade fair to Nigerian businesses.
The High-Level IATF Roadshow in Lagos also featured two insightful panel sessions: ‘Growing intra-African trade amidst increasing regional and global geopolitical challenges.’
Intong Eric Monchu, Regional Chief Operating Officer, Anglophone West Africa, Afreximbank, said the implementation of AfCFTA was the arrowhead of Afreximbank’s strategy and that the continent “must stop being last in terms of trade and must tailor African solutions to African challenges.”
Speaking about Nigeria, Bank of Industry’s Divisional Head of Corporate Finance, Leonard Kange, said: “The country is vulnerable to the volatility due to exporting raw materials. You’re exporting money and importing poverty. It is very important to support and develop our industrial base, support and enable them to grow.”
Meanwhile, Olatayo Omidiji, DGM/Head, Strategic and Corporate Communication, Nigeria Export-Import Bank, called on Nigeria to develop infrastructure and technology for manufacturing to compete globally as the composition of trade globally is mainly manufactured finished products: “The starting point is to add value to raw materials.”
In the second session, entitled ‘What must Nigeria do to take advantage of the AfCFTA?’ the panellists provided actionable insights on localising manufacturing with quality products conforming to international standards and improving transport infrastructure.
Financial services and fashion were pinpointed as among the Nigerian sectors likely to benefit most from the AfCFTA, and banks were called upon to support SMEs with easier access to finance.
Dr. Singh declared that Nigeria is on the brink of exponential growth with the automotive sector on the cusp of a dynamic shift by adopting new technology. An example of Nigeria’s ability to transform is rice: two years ago, rice was imported but now Nigeria is self-sufficient when it comes to rice.
Mr Emeka Uzomba, Senior Adviser, AfCFTA Secretariat talked about the key benefits of the AfCFTA as the most important development tool for Africa by creating a large trading block that provides scale and encourages the localisation of manufacturing.
He also spoke about improving the standard and quality of products, efficiency of processes as well as infrastructure and trade as services and called on the private sector to play its part.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Amr El Tantawy, Head of the Egyptian Commercial Bureau of the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Nigeria, reminded delegates that IATF2023 is a prime event on a trade and economic level for African countries.
“Events like this are a true reflection of our strong commitment to materialise economic development, which should be given a boost through the full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is set to redefine African economic fortune for the future.”
Nigeria has much to gain from IATF2023, having played a huge role in the successful outcome of IATF2021 in Durban, South Africa, where Nigeria accounted for 39% (US$16.5 billion) of the total US$42.1 billion trade and investment deals signed; 14.1% (4,500) of the 32,000 visitors and 15.8% (237) of the 1,501 exhibitors. The expectation is that Nigeria will surpass this at IATF 2023 where it is forecast to conclude $17.2 billion (40%) of the total trade and investment deals, account for 10,500 (30%) and 400 (25%) of the visitors and exhibitors respectively.
The event provided an informative prelude to the third Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2023) for the Nigerian business community. Organised by Afreximbank in collaboration with the African Union Commission and the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat, IATF2023 is being held from 9 to 15 November 2023 in Cairo, Egypt. It is forecast to result in US$43 billion of trade and investment deals being agreed, and to attract over 1,600 exhibitors and more than 35,000 conference delegates and trade visitors.