From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Durban, South Africa
Chairman of the Intra African Trade Fair (IATF) Advisory Council and Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has a component to right the wrongs of the past and break down borders of trade.
He has described the fair as the largest and go to trade and investment fair on the African continent.
He spoke at the opening of the 2nd Intra African Trade Fair at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa.
The IATF2021 is a trade show that provides a platform for linking international buyers, sellers and investors as well as allowing for participants and visitors to profile and share market information and investment opportunities in support of intra-African trade and the economic integration of the continent.
The 7-day event hosted by the South African government in conjunction with African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), has the theme focussing on the newly-launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The free trade area is an African Union initiative that creates a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.
According to him, the Trade Fair is also one of the key initiatives in support of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which provides an opportunity for the continent to achieve economic emancipation and self reliance. A Obasanjo said: “The Intra African Trade Fair is an important component in righting the wrongs of the past and breaking down borders. It is aimed at building bridges to help us achieve the ambitions of agenda 2063 the Africa we want. In the context of post COVID-19 The Africa continental free trade area probably even more important role as the framework for African economic recovery. I agree that implementing the Africa continental free trade area is the bell stimulus for building forward better post pandemic economies.”
Obasanjo, urged that despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the momentum created by the first intra Africa trade on launch of African continental free trade area to drive intra African trade and integration needs to be sustained.
He explained that the inaugural Intra African Trade Fair in Cairo in 2018 provided a glimpse of the immense potential that exists for intra African trade and investments.
Obasanjo said: “This trade fair clearly illustrate the determination and resilience of the African spirit. Despite this specter of COVID-19, it is gratifying that today, we are gathered here for this opening ceremony to what promises to be a very successful trade fair. Building on the success of the inaugural intra African trade fair, this second edition of the trade fair will ensure that the efforts aimed at growing intra African trade are sustained.
“It is within this in mind that the theme for intra African trade for 2021 is “Building Bridges for a Successful Africa Continental Free Trade Area.” Intra African trade fair 2021 will again provide an opportunity for exhibitors, to showcase their goods and services, engage in business to business exchanges and conclude business deals. It is a seven day trade show that provides a platform for sharing trade, investment and market information and enabling buyers and sellers, investors and countries to meet discuss and conclude business deals.
“IATF 2021 will also feature a world leading trade and investment forum that will provide the platform to discuss the opportunities arising from the operationalizing and implementation of the Africa continental free trade area. It will also discuss critical issues that affect African trade, ranging from climate and border environmental issues to important new technologies, geopolitical tensions, and so on. Uniquely, this edition of the trade fair also comes with all the important events, namely creative African nexus, a platform for showcasing Africa’s creative talents, an example of that we have seen with Dike Chukwumereje.
“An automotive show co-created with the Association of African automotive manufacturers as well as the youth pavilion under which youth startups will be exposed to potential investors or markets.”
Obasanjo said over 1000 exhibitors and over 10,000 visitors are expected at the fair. He said over $40 billion deals are expected to be closed. He added that there are also several businesses matchmaking opportunities to be made, saying “our expect the SMEs present to take advantage of them.”
Obasanjo while thanking President Cyril Ramaphosa and his government for their visionary and great decision to host IATF 2021. He said South Africa recognized that the IATF will help the continent face forward in this time of uncertainty.
He also commended the government of Rwanda, the original designated host for the IATF 2021, for the magnanimity of spirit, in allowing Durban to host given the devastating impact of COVID-19 on global supply chains, which affected Rwanda’s ability to deliver a brand new exhibition center that would have been befitting for such an important event.”
The Trade Fair will provide a unique and valuable platform for the South African businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.2 billion people with a Gross Domestic Product of over US$2.5 trillion created under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).