Prof. Benedict Okey Oramah, was appointed Chairman and President of African Export-Import Bank on September 21, 2015. Prior to his appointment, he had served as Executive Vice President for Business Development & Corporate Banking at African Export-Import Bank from October 2008 to September 21, 2015. In that role, Prof Oramah supervised the business development departments and units of Afreximbank, including Trade Finance and Branches; Project and Export Development Finance; Syndications and Specialized Finance; and Corporate banking.
He currently occupies the position of Chairman for International Factors Group (South Africa) and is a Member-Consultative Board at International Cocoa Organisation .
Before moving over to Afreximbank, Oramah, had worked as Assistant Research Manager at Nigerian Export – Import Bank.
He received a graduate degree and a doctorate from Obafemi Awolowo University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Ibadan.
At the first Intra Africa Trade Fair (IATF) held in Cairo, Egypt last December, he spoke to Daily Sun on the dream of the Afreximbank to grow Intra Africa Trade by creating a robust network of interrelated business activities that would raise the volume of transactions between African countries to about $250billion by 2021, assuring that the continental development bank would support African entrepreneurs to leverage its huge virtual platform created during the fair to expand their businesses. Excerpts:
Why 42 African countries rated 2018 IATF successful
From whichever perspective you are assessing it, the 2018 Intra African trade Fairs a huge success. This is because the one week of IATF, exhibitors from about 42 countries had the opportunity to share trade experiences, investments and market information. It also afforded us the privilege to introduce spares to sellers and exchange ideas among businessmen and enterpreneurs across Africa. We introduced investors to investees, some of us have signed trade deals, exhibitors have showcased their goods and services.
At the conferences, we have heard from experts in many fields that touch on matters of trade finance and investment.
However, one of the initiatives we launched at the trade fair to further drive business is the Virtual Intra Africa Trade Desk. This is an online platform for buyers and sellers to meet, exchange trade and market information and showcase their products and services to new markets and potential buyers. The virtual trade fair continues even after the real trade fair ended until the next trade fair in Rwanda.
I would therefore urge businessmen to continue to use it as a source new trade and investment information on an ongoing basis.
We believe there is a compelling reason for everyone to be part of this platform. This is because as at last night there were about 700 registrations and 7000 activities on the platform in just a few days after it was opened . This shows that B to B exchanges have started and our forecast is that this platform will become the largest single virtual platform on Intra Africa Trade going forward . You started the movement here and you cannot be left behind. You must work hard to tell others to be part of it so that we can collectively rebuild a strong ecosystems that would become the largest source of Trade information in Africa as we can begin to break all the barriers that have held us back.
Benefits of IATF 2018
The trade fair will contribute to achieving Afreximbank’s objective of growing Intra Africa Trade from $170billion to $250billion and by so doing ensure that Africa trade grows by 22 percent by 2021 even though president Obasanjo had charged us to raise it to 50 percent within that period. But I think we can start with achieving 22 per cent by 2021 and then look forward to raising it higher shortly afterward.
From all indications, the 2018 IATF has been a tremendous success in all respects, considering that we surpassed all our expectations by every measure. For instance, we expected 1000 exhibitors, but we got 1100. We anticipated not more 30 countries pavilions, but we achieved 42 countries pavilions.
We expected to conclude $25billion deals, but at the end of the fairs, we have sealed $30billion deals and we are still counting. We expected a minimum B to B exchanges that will lead to complete deals, but at the last check we had over 100 Business to Business interactions that have led to complete transactions.
This is a positive indication that the Fair was a huge success. It took a lot of work to achieve that level of success as I have mentioned.
Although some of us here we may have fallen short of your expectations, we must all realise that we are all in it together. If we did not do exactly what you expected us to do please don’t take it on us. If we achieved 100 per cent, it was obvious we struggled to achieve it, but we want to assure you that every day we would try to improve on those records.
Message to Nigerian business community
My message to Nigeria’s business community is to say lots of big thank you to Nigerian government, the companies and banks that participated at the fair,. It is also to say a Big thank you to Nigeria’s business community, particularly companies like Notore, United Bank for Africa PLC, Fidelity Bank Plc, The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Dangote Group, Nestoil, Union Bank , Heritage Bank and the BUA Group for their support and participation at the IATF 2018.
Nigeria had a wonderful pavilion and proved that anytime it has opportunity to showcase itself to the world, it does it in grand style. For instance, on the occasion of Nigeria’s Day, Nigeria’s Evening, Fashion Day, Creative Industry Night, among other activities , Nigeria’s performance was splendid and quite outstanding. It shows that Nigeria is in a strong position to take advantage of the huge potential of the African market to give direction to the rest of Africa.
Expectations for 2020
By 2020 when we should be hosting the 2nd edition of IATF in Kigali, Rwanda, we would be looking forward to seeing more Nigeria companies, and more SMEs participating . I strongly believe also that Nigerian has tremendous opportunity to leverage the huge market created with this trade fair to penetrate the rest of African markets.
Nigeria was one of the promoters of the African economic integration initiative and therefore cannot just sit behind watching other countries reaping the benefits without participating. It has to participate actively because it has the potential to drive African trade with its abundant human and natural resources.
I am happy to say that Nigeria is a leader on the African continent in several respects and that by 2020, we would be able to seee more Nigerian companies participating at the second edition.
I am very optimistic that by 2020 we will see stronger participation by Nigerian companies because by the same time too, we would be celebrating some of the deals concluded here in IATF in Cairo.
Again we would be able to showcase the outcome of some of the networks that were being established through IATF 2018. But on our part, Afreximbank would, going forward ensure that we would continue to build the communications not only from a digital standpoint, but also to make it possible for more direct relationships with companies that participated here to enable them to take advantage of the opportunities created through this Fair.
We will help in communicating what they are expected to know and also help them through direct relationships to discover more business opportunities across the continent in order to boost their businesses.
Snags in our Organisational ability
Yes there were some blames from our part regarding the clearance of goods for Exhibitions at IATF, because we needed to have given adequate communications on how goods should be cleared here considering there are different rules across countries on how exhibit for fairs ought to come in. Like in other human organisations , some of the goods came very late, some of them a day before the Fair. But then, we have taken those inconveniences as part of a learning process, hoping that such challenges won’t happen next time we are organising similar events.
However, just as Commissioner Albert Muchanga said, by 2020, the African Free Trade Agreement would have come into force and so the challenges we had in Egypt would not recur again because we are also hoping that by that time the issues of duty payments may not arise.
Concern over Nigeria’s inability to sign ACFTA
Nigerian did not say it would not sign the ACFTA,. What they are saying is that they needed to consult more before signing and I think that such consultations are important in matters like this. Eventually it is the businesses and enterprises in the country that would make it work and since the government felt enough consultations have not happened, it is important they are allowed to do so.
I believe Nigeria would sign and I don’t see any African country not signing because any one that fails to sign would be left behind. As you can see, we already have 49 countries that have signed. In Walrus law, it is stated that if an economy has N numbers of markets, equilibrium is in n-1 market. It shows you that there is equilibrium at the end market.
How African Union complemented Afreximbank
I must commend the role played by African Union in achieving the above high points.
It is amazing how the AU started as a political organisation has now transformed into championing African economic integration. We must also thank our host and the Government of Arab Republic of Egypt under President El Sisi for being a strong supporter. We have a government in Egypt that is pro – Africa. A government that is committed to the economic development of Africa. Despite the challenges the government provided us state of the art conference facilities throughout the duration of our meetings.
I also commend the Advisory Council of the IATF led by President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Council did a tremendous work that helped us achieve the successes you are seeing at this Fair.
There were a number of entities that helped us as partners in achieving successes recorded at the fair and so let me thank the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the South Africa Chamber of Commerce, The Islamic Trade Finance Corporation, the World Trade Centre in Miami, and the Afrochampions among others.
In addition to that we also had over 100 sponsors and Afreximbank led in the sponsorship but we must commend our board of directors for believing in this vision.