BY EMEKA EJERE
The second Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF 2021) ended on Sunday in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, with $36 billion deals recording during the one week of the event.
There was also a collective commitment to ensure that the economic stimulation triggered by the event translates into the continued strengthening of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Speaking during the closing ceremony, the Managing Director, Intra-African Trade Initiative at Afreximbank, Mrs Kanayo Awani said: “Let me just announce that as of now, we have $36 billion in deals concluded at IATF 2021.
“This is one of the KPIs as the trade fair is not an end in itself but the platform to develop business to grow intra-African trade, and as an opportunity to do business beyond here.
“This number is as of now, deals are still going on; we advertised for digital inputs into the deals. We circulated notes for people to fill for their deals and they are still being compiled.
“IATF attracted 70 sponsors, about 51 had exhibition stands.”
According to Awani, a total of 11,828 attendees were at the event physically as against the target of about 10,000.
“We had four country days: South Africa, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria. Forty-six African countries were represented in the exhibition stands. In all, we had 59 countries that participated, 46 from Africa, and the rest were from outside of Africa.
“When taking into consideration the delegates, exhibitors, visitors, buyers, then speakers, there were 11, 828 participants in IATF 2021, activities from 128 countries.
“In terms of number of exhibitors, we had a target of 1,100 as we kept advertising and I am also happy to announce that we exceeded that. So we had 1,161 exhibitors and this cut across the various verticals.
“The exhibiting companies at the main arena, the creative exhibitors – the exhibiting companies were 833; the CANEX (Creative Africa Nexus) – the creative exhibitors were 46, youth exhibitors were 47, auto exhibitors 19 and virtual exhibitors 416.
“As we all know, the IATF virtual was going on in parallel, so this was a hybrid programme and the statistics also showed that for the IATF virtual, we had over almost 27,000 participants.”
In his remarks, Chairman of the IATF 2021 Advisory Council and former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, , Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, thanked the KwaZulu-Natal Province for successfully hosting IATF 2021, and fully bringing the vision of the AfCFTA to life in a tangible and measurable way.
“It is no mean feat to have secured seven sitting presidents for the opening ceremony who stayed for hours during the entire programme,” Obasanjo said.
“Thank you immensely for all you have done to make sure this event takes place,” he added, promising to meet everyone in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in 2023.
Also speaking, President of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah, indicated that the road to Abidjan would commence immediately, with the launch of the IATF 2023 website registration portal, which is now live.
“We will overcome the challenges we experienced with IATF 2021 and leverage the progress of the AfCFTA over the coming two years to make IATF 2023 an even more resounding success,” he concluded.
Responding to a question about the free movement of people across the continent, H.E Ambassador Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Industry and Mining, told the press conference that the work of the AfCFTA would be further strengthened by the ratification of the African Union protocol on free movement of persons in Africa, which still needed eleven signatories in order to be passed. “Once the protocol is ratified, there will then be visa-free movement of people, and ultimately, the mainstream introduction of the African passport,” he said.
H.E Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, complimented Afreximbank’s efforts in empowering and supporting free trade in the continent, saying the Bank had in the last two years pumped in close to US$25 Billion towards financing trade engagements within the Continent.
“Not a single Country in Africa will be able to compete globally alone, hence African Countries must just integrate the market, something that has been evaded Africa from 1963, when our forefathers hatched African Unity,” said Mr. Mene.