BY EMEKA EJERE

The South African Government has assured Nigerians wishing to participate in the forthcoming intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021), in Durban that securing visa will not be a problem to them.

The Consular General, South African High Commission in Nigeria, Mr. Parkey Africa, who gave the assurance at the Nigeria High-Level Roadshow preparatory to the event on Monday in Lagos, said South African Missions in Lagos and Abuja will ensure that those going to the trade fair get visas with ease.

Organised by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in collaboration with the African Union and AfCFTA Secretariat, the 2nd Intra- African Trade Fair (IATF 2021), will be hosted by the Government of the Republic of South Africa in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, from 15 to 21 November 2021.

According to Afreximbank, IATF 2021 will provide a unique and valuable platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of over $2.5 trillion created under the African Continental Free Trade Area.

“Don’t worry about visa, our missions in Lagos and Abuja will make sure you get visas with ease”, the Consular General said.

“Just come, normalcy has been restored in Durban. People are going about their normal businesses, there is maximum security.

“Just come, it promises to be an exciting experience. After this time, you can still come again in December.”

In his presentation, the Executive Vice President, Corporate Governance and Legal Services at Afreximbank, Dr. George Elombi, recalled that the first edition of IATF held in Cairo, Egypt in 2018 generated about $32.6 billion in trade and investment deals, noting that around $40 billion worth of deals is expected this year.

“We often say that $32 billion was just to give it some approximate figure”, Elombi said.

“But 75 per cent of those deals were executed. So there is hope. This year, we think somewhere around $40 billion will look reasonable, given the COVID circumstances.

“But without COVID, two or three years later, we should be somewhere around $50 billion. “

He charged the Nigerian government to mobilise its public and private sectors to take advantage of huge opportunities IATF 2021 offers.

“To date, there are about 600 signed up exhibitors out of a target of about 1,100 exhibitors.
“This constitutes 55 per cent overall uptake of IATF 2021 exhibition space.

“The number of signed up Nigerian exhibitors is still low and we call on the business community and the public sector to take up exhibition spaces to ensure that Nigeria is fully represented at IATF 2021,” he said.

Earlier in his keynote address, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi, regretted that at all-time low of less than 12 per cent, Intra-African trade is very poor compared to other continents’ blocs.

Represented by Mr Olusegun Awolowo, Executive Director/CEO, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), the Minister noted that the  only way Africa can get out of economic situation of the pandemic is through trade.

“So, the problem is that Africa is not trading with Africa. And that is the main challenge. I’ve always maintained that everything Africa needs is in Africa.”, he said.

“And what the Afreximbank is taking up is that platform that encourages us to trade among ourselves.”

In her remarks, Managing Director, Intra-African Trade Initiative at Afreximbank, Mrs. Kanayo Awani,  explained that the trade fair is one of the initiatives that Intra-African Trade is working on, adding “our business is divided into finance and facilitation.”

“You will agree with me that for intra-African trade to grow, we need to do some facilitation works to deal with the bottlenecks that are militating and inhibiting the traffic of trade.”