ADDIS ABABA – The Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021) kicked off in South Africa, Durban, on Monday under the theme “Building Bridges for a successful AfCFTA”.
The fair attracted thousands of visitors including seven former and current African Heads of States at the Durban International Convention Center on its Opening Day, said Afreximbank, that organised the trade fair in collaboration with the African Union and the AfCFTA Secretariat.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Cyril Ramaphosa declared his country is ready to work with other African countries to drive more balanced, equitable and fair-trade relations for the benefit of the continent.
“This Trade Fair is about building bridges. It is about connecting countries. It is about connecting people as well. Now Africa is taking concrete steps to write its own economic success story and this Intra-African Trade Fair is part of that story. Africa is opening up new fields of opportunity” he asserted.
Ramaphosa said he wants to see more made in Africa labels, as “this is critical if we are to change the distorted trade relationship that exists between African countries and the rest of the world”.
“We can no longer have a situation where Africa exports raw materials and imports finished goods with those materials. By promoting trade in Africa, we strengthen our own industrial base and produce goods for ourselves and for each other.”
The event which runs through to 21st November is expected to close upwards of $40 billion dollars worth of deals signed and is being attended by over 1,100 entities exhibiting their goods and services to over 10,000 delegates, visitors and buyers from over 95 countries from the continent and beyond.
Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria, said the continental trade fair is a “start our collaborative journey towards collective economic prosperity” of Africa.
“We cannot achieve this goal by talking alone. The implementation, the difficult journey and the challenges are surmountable if both public and private sectors collaborate,” Buhari said. “On the public sector side, governments must support local entrepreneurs to build scale, and therefore improve productivity.”
“The African Continental Free Trade Area must make the effort to ensure that Africa must be a marketplace where no country is left behind, we must ensure that we create jobs and enhance revenues for all parties,” he added.
Of significance is the introduction of an automotive forum to the trade fair, having appreciated the role played by the industry in spurring trade and investment.
A vibrant automotive sector would impact on the rubber and other raw materials industry, thereby infusing rapid development for the other supporting sectors.
This year’s event will also have a designated youth agenda – African Youth Startup – where a one stop pavilion will provide information for the youth on necessary business startup knowledge as well as hold their hands.
More than 300 selected youth including seven from Ethiopia are participating in the pavilion because the Youth are the continent’s future for investment trade and development
Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, said the IATF2021 is a demonstration of Africa’s defiance of the dark clouds gathered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the words of Ghana’s founding President Kwame Nkrumah, the convergence of Africans to chart the Continent’s trade and investment future, is a departure from the colonialists’ intention of partitioning the Continent along physical boundaries stretching over 87,000km, not for the benefit of Africans, but for their own, he said.
“The stimulation of economies isn’t about trade, it’s about job creation and holistic economic recovery backed by political support. It offers a comprehensive solution – it is not just a trade fair,” Prof. Oramah said.