Amechi Ogbonna, Cairo Egypt
Businessmen and women from about 42 African countries brokered over $30 billion business to business deals at the end of the first Intra-Africa Trade Fair (IATF), which ended in Cairo, Egypt yesterday, amidst heightened expectations that the continent’s economic integration would gain more traction over the next two years when they would converge again on Kigali, Rwanda, for a second edition in 2020.
At a closing ceremony moderated by former CNN presenter, Miss Aisha Sesay, Afreximbank President, Mr. Okey Oramah, said total transactions by sellers and buyers from different parts of the continent recorded during the eight-trade expo stood at over $30 billion.
“We expected 1,000 exhibitors but we recorded 1,100. We expected 30 countries but we recorded 42, including Russia, China and Indonesia. We projected $25 billion deals but we got $30 billion. We had over 100 business to business deals sealed at the fair,” Oramah said.
According to him, the IATF is like a relay race designed to leave behind better days for African children, adding it was a race to leave colonialism and poverty behind Africa.
The Afreximbank boss further stated: “We have signed trade deals, exchanged ideas and information. We have also launched a virtual IATF portal to enable businesses continue their interactions at the end of the meeting.
Commenting on transactions so far captured on the the online platform, Oramah said 700 registered exhibitors have already conducted over 1,000 activities on the virtual platform as at the end of the fair, adding that the whole idea was to raise Africa to Africa trade from the current $170 billion or 18 per cent of global exchange to about $250 billion or 22 per cent by 2021.
This was as the Chairman of the IATF Advisory Board and Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, unveiled Kigali, the Rwandan capital, as the next host of IATF in 2020.
Announcing the new host at a capacity filled auditorium at the Al Manara International Conference and Exhibitions Centre in Cairo, the former president declared the fair a huge success and urged the Rwandan government not to go below the standards set by Egypt.
According to him, the fair was a huge success, as it gave participants opportunity for incisive business discussions
“We have increased business contacts as over 1,000 exhibitors showcased their goods. Investors have displayed their potential, trade agreements were signed and IATF has indeed delivered more than was intended. It is the beginning of a journey of transformation for Africa and IATF will run again in two years in Kigali, Rwanda.”
On what the continent stands to gain, Obasanjo said the IATF will help Africa remove tariff and non-barriers needed to establish contacts and drive trade across the region. He called on all Africans to believe in themselves and what can be achieved by Africans within despite the challenges they would encounter doing so.
He said, “colonialism has done its havoc on Africa but let us keep it behind us and endeavour to make the continent play more significant role in global economic agenda by developing the capacity to produce goods and services that can be exported to the rest of the world. There is no pride in poverty but there ius strength in economic prosperity.”
For his part, African Union Commissioner for Trade Development, Ambassador Albert Muchanga, said the trade fair had exposed participants to opportunities in Africa, adding that business to business networks established through the fair were above average.
He said, “the world now knows there is IATF as well as the opportunities it can offer. We can now see information as a key driver for business with the number of supply contracts entered into by businesses.”
Muchanga said the high number of female exhibitors at the fair in relation to their female counterparts clearly confirmed a recent AU research finding that women are more entrepreneurial than men, stressing however that the future of Africa belongs to the self employed.
While responding on behalf of his president, the Rwandan Ambassador to Egypt, Mr Shoish Saleh Habiman, promised that his country would not let Africa down. “We will not go below the standard that Egypt has set” We will be happy to receive you in Kigali. Rwanda will ensure that IATF 2020 will be the best when it comes to standards” He said