By Folasade Akpan
President Muhammadu Buhari says the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) must ensure that Africa is a marketplace where no country is left behind, jobs are created and revenues are enhanced for all parties.
According to a statement issued by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), on Tuesday, he said this in Durban, South Africa, at the second Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021) which began on Monday.
It has as its theme “Building Bridges for a Successful AfCFTA”.
“Today is a great day for Africa as we start our collaborative journey towards collective economic prosperity and we cannot achieve this goal by talking alone.
“The implementation, the difficult journey and the challenges are surmountable if both public and private sectors collaborate.
“On the public sector side, governments must support local entrepreneurs to build scale and therefore improve productivity.”
Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, said that his country was ready to work with other African countries to drive more balanced, equitable and fair-trade relations for the benefit of the continent.
According to him, the fair is about building bridges, connecting countries and connecting people as well.
He also said that he wants to see more made in Africa labels, as this was critical if the continent was to change the distorted trade relationship that exists between it and the rest of the world.
“Now Africa is taking concrete steps to write its own economic success story and this Intra-African Trade Fair is part of that story.
“We can no longer have a situation where Africa exports raw materials and imports finished goods with those materials.
“By promoting trade in Africa, we strengthen our own industrial base and produce goods for ourselves and for each other.”
Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, said that the IATF2021 was a demonstration of Africa’s defiance of the dark clouds gathered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, the convergence of Africans to chart the continent’s trade and investment future was a departure from the colonialists’ intention of partitioning the continent along physical boundaries.
“The stimulation of economies is not about trade; it is about job creation and holistic economic recovery backed by political support. It offers a comprehensive solution – it is not just a trade fair.”
Mr Lazarus Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi, said that to make intra-African trade a reality, Africa must make its border procedures intra-African.
“Our transport infrastructure intra-African, bus and airline routes intra-African, electricity distribution intra-African, our fibre and broadband connectivity intra-African, our investment intra-African, our industrialisation and urbanisation intra-African and our shops intra-African.
“Africa cannot be a free trade area until us Member States remove the obstacles that hinder Africans from trading freely.”
Mr Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, said that the next wave of investment in African markets must focus on productive sectors of Africa’s economy in order to drive the continent’s industrial development in the decades to come.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Albert Muchanga, Commissioner for Trade and Industry, African Union (AU), said that in the medium term, the vision was to transform the IATF brand into a self-financing special purpose vehicle.
This, he said, would be owned by all AU member states and Pan African financial institutions.
The fair which would end on Sunday is expected to close about 40 billion dollars’ worth of deals signed.
Organised by Afreximbank in collaboration with the AU and the AfCFTA secretariat, it is being attended by over 1,100 entities exhibiting their goods and services to over 10,000 delegates, visitors and buyers from over 95 countries from the continent and beyond. (NAN)