Uche Usim, Abuja
Plans to establish the East African branch of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) in Kampala, crystallized at the weekend, as the regional bank signed the two principal documents with the government of Uganda at a ceremony witnessed by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Afreximbank President Prof. Benedict Oramah and Philemon Mateke, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Uganda in charge of regional affairs, signed the Branch Office Agreement, while Prof. Oramah and Matia Kasaija, Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development of Uganda, signed the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Temporary and Permanent Premises of the East Africa Branch Office in Kampala, at the Ugandan State House in Kampala.
Speaking after the signing, President Museveni commended Afreximbank for choosing to establish the branch office in Uganda and promised the support of the government to ensure its success.
President Museveni said that through its provision of trade finance and promotion of value addition to Africa’s commodities and products, Afreximbank was helping to address some of the major deficits confronting Africa, which he said was underconsuming and underproducing.
“If you don’t trade, you cannot grow,” he told the audience, highlighting that without trade, the economy would collapse as there would be no jobs and social problems would ensue.
Former President Obasanjo said that the establishment of the Afreximbank East Africa Branch Office represented a significant advance in ensuring the provision and availability of trade finance in the East Africa region and in Uganda, describing Afreximbank as a typical example of a strong African institution.
He noted that the establishment of the Branch Office would boost the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), saying that the signing, ratification and launch of the AfCFTA was one of the best things that has happened to Africa in recent times.
Earlier, Prof. Oramah said that the establishment of the Branch Office represented a significant milestone in the annals of Afreximbank as the absence of a physical presence in the East Africa region had been a “yawning gap” in the Bank’s vision for enhanced effectiveness in delivering its mandate in Africa.
He said that the establishment of the Branch Office had set the stage for deepening the Bank’s operation across the 11 East African countries under its jurisdiction and expressed gratitude to the government of Uganda for agreeing to host it and for working so hard for the realization of that goal.
He said that the Branch Office would have long-term impact on Uganda and East Africa with a lot of benefits accruing to them.
Prof Oramah added that the Branch Office would open for business in October while a formal launch would take place in November.
Also speaking, Mr. Kasaija said that Uganda stood to reap a number of benefits from the establishment of the Branch Office in Kampala, including increased export and import trade and enhanced access to credit facilities. It would also increase Afreximbank’s portfolio in Uganda and lead to job creation and expansion of credit liquidity in the country.
The ceremony was also attended by members of the Afreximbank Board of Directors, the management and staff of the Bank as well as by many senior Ugandan government officials.
Afreximbank, which is headquartered in Cairo, currently has branch offices in Abidjan, Abuja, and Harare.
The signing ceremony was one of three activities held by Afreximbank in Kampala during the week. In addition to the third quarterly meeting of the Board of Directors, which took place on 18 September, the Bank began a three-day retreat for the mid-term review of its Fifth Strategic Plan on 19 September.