Sisi calls for intra-African trade boost at IATF

The third edition of the Intra-African Trade Fair, which took place in Cairo from 9-14 November, connected tens of thousands of visitors and buyers and is expected to have generated $43bn in deals.


Image : Egyptian Presidency

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt has called on countries across the continent to consolidate their efforts to promote intra-African trade.

Speaking on Tuesday at the third Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) in Cairo, the president said that Africa’s huge natural resources and its agricultural, educational and mineral potential should be leveraged to drive intra-African trade, adding that there was need for African nations to cooperate positively towards mutual growth.

“As you can see, the capabilities exist and the possibilities exist, but there may be some obstacles and problems that hinder this work,” he said. “Therefore, we in Egypt should always build, develop, rebuild and cooperate in these fields, and nothing less.”

The IATF is Africa’s largest trade and investment event, attracting thousands of exhibitors, visitors and buyers and generating trade and investment deals running into tens of billions of dollars.

Its third edition, held from 9-15 November in Cairo under the theme “Building Bridges for a successful AfCFTA”, placed a strong focus on recognising growth opportunities for intra-African cross border trade and investments. Some 1615 exhibitors showcased the diverse trade potential across Africa and 42 countries participated with pavilions, fostering regional collaboration.

Initial estimates predicted that the fair would see $43bn worth of trade and investment deals, with 35,000 buyers and visitors in attendance.

Notable deals included the signature of a framework agreement for the Export Agriculture for Food Security (ExAFS) Initiative between the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) with ARISE Integrated Industrial Platforms (ARISE IIP) and the governments of Chad, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Egypt. The initiative seeks to initiative to improve food security in Africa.

Afreximbank is committing $2bn to boost production, processing and intra-African trade in agricultural products and provide African farmers and agribusinesses with opportunities to access larger markets across the continent.

Connecting African buyers, sellers and investors

Although the share of intra-African trade as a percentage of total African trade has increased from 10% in 1995 to around 16% currently, it remains low compared to the levels in Europe (59%), Asia (51%), and North America (37%). One of the key reasons for the low level of intra-African trade is the lack of access to cross-border trade and market information.

March 2018 marked the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement by the majority of African countries. This agreement opened the way for increased intra-African trade, and also enhanced the continent’s appeal for prospective investors.

Afreximbank launched the biennial IATF in 2018 as a unique platform to connect African buyers, sellers, and investors. Organised by the bank in collaboration with the African Union and AfCFTA Secretariat, it marked an important step in providing the exchange of trade and investment information needed to achieve the objectives of the AfCFTA.

The IATF is, essentially, a gateway into the AfCFTA, heralding what will be the biggest free trade area in the world. It brings together continental and global players to showcase and exhibit their goods and services and to explore business and investment opportunities in the continent. In addition to African participants, the fair is also open to businesses and investors from non-African countries interested in doing business in Africa and in supporting the continent’s transformation through industrialisation and export development.

Algeria has been selected to host the fourth IATF, scheduled to take place in 2025.

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Charles Dietz

Charles Dietz is a sub editor and journalist at African Business.