Uche Usim, Abuja
A digital ecosystem meant to dismantle identified bottlenecks to trade finance flows within Africa is currently being built by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and African Union.
The President of the Pan-African bank, Prof. Benedict Oramah made the disclosure in Washington D.C, USA, while delivering an address at the “IGD Frontier 100 Forum” organized by the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) held on the sidelines of the recently-concluded World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings. According to him, one of the major constraints to intra-African trade was lack of information to support intra-regional trade and investments. He said the ugly development made many African countries to import products from outside the continent at exorbitant rates when they could source the same from neighboring countries who exported the same products at a much lower cost.
He said: “It was to address that challenge that Afreximbank and the AU were working to use digital technology to improve access to trade information and facilitate the use of African national currencies via intra African trade settlements, he explained.
Oramah pointed out that Afreximbank was developing a focused programme to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the continent, recognizing that SMEs were a vital component to unlocking intra-African potential.
He noted that IGD has been facilitating discourse on important African issues over the years and said that Afreximbank identified with the efforts and achievements of the IGD, hence its close partnership with the initiative.
Also speaking at the event, Leila Ndiaye, President, and CEO of IGD, said that the initiative’s work was aimed at supporting Africa’s growth and development agenda and at pushing to unlock intra-African trade through SME growth and development.
Oramah and Dr. Hippolyte Fofack, Afreximbank Chief Economist, who accompanied him to the event, also participated in two panel discussions, on “Supporting Africa’s Growth and Development Agenda” and “Expanding Regional Trade and Investment for Africa’s future”, respectively.
In another development, Afreximbank has been awarded the mandate to serve as the exclusive financial adviser and mandated lead arranger for the $130-million bauxite mine expansion project by Sierra Mineral Holdings 1 Limited (Vimetco) in Sierra Leone.
The mandate was announced in Freetown on 4 April during a working meeting hosted by Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio with representatives of Vimetco, the chief sponsor of the project; VI Holdings, the parent company of Vimetco; and Afreximbank.
Under the terms of the mandate, as captured in an engagement letter signed between Vimetco and Afreximbank during the working meeting with President Bio, Afreximbank is given the authority to provide financial advice and to take the lead in arranging the raising of capital for the project.
The signing ceremony also marked the official launch of the expansion project, which will see the construction of a new plant commencing in 2020, with production scheduled to start in mid-2022.
The Vimetco bauxite mine will produce aluminum and alumina tri-hydrate which is used in the refractory and ceramics industries and for water purification. Other uses of alumina tri-hydrate include as a flame retardant filler and as a polishing compound.
The construction of the new plant equipped with modern technology will mark a first in Sierra Leone in terms of the development of the mining industry. The project will create jobs and lead to the development of infrastructure through the construction of schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, etc.
Vimetco currently employs more than 1,500 people and contributes 1 percent of its revenue to community and social development projects, including orphanages, schools, and major social events.
The company is a globally integrated aluminum group and operates bauxite mines in Sierra Leone, coal mines, aluminum production and processing facilities and electricity plant in China and an alumina refinery and aluminum smelter in Romania.
The company’s strategy is focused on expanding added value areas of its business and securing its raw material and energy needs. The Sierra Leone bauxite mine, which has a resources base of approximately 31 million tonnes and was acquired in July 2008, supplies all the raw materials for the Romanian alumina refinery
Also participating in the working meeting were David J. Francis, Chief Minister of Sierra Leone; Igor Higher, Executive Representative, VI Holdings; Alex Ivanov, Managing Director, Vimetco; and Ibrahim Sagna, Director and Global Head, Advisory and Capital Markets, Afreximbank. Others were Basudeb Datta, Director of Operations, Vimetco; Abdul Bangura, Chief Finance Officer, Vimetco; Abdoulaye Kone, Regional Chief Operating Officer, Anglophone West Africa, Afreximbank; Pete Olowononi, of the Afreximbank Regional Office for Anglophone West Africa; and Kingsley Mbah of Afreximbank’s Advisory and Capital Markets Department.