Kudzanai Sharara in CAIRO, Egypt
A stronger African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank) as well as a stronger group of African Development Finance Institutions, can be one of the solid pillars on which Africa’s development can be built, a senior official with the bank has said.
Speaking ahead of the official opening of the 2022 Afreximbank Annual Meetings (AAM2022) underway here, Afreximbank President and Chairman Professor Benedict Oramah said it is imperative that Africa solves its problems.
To be able to do that, Prof Oramah said, the continent has to make its institutions such as banks stronger and more effective.
Highlighting the interventions the bank had to make during the Covid-19 pandemic, Prof Oramah said it is now evident that Afreximbank has become a “vital instrument for crisis intervention in Africa”.
“With its limited resources, Afreximbank made a significant impact in helping Africa to contain the pandemic,” he said.
The ongoing Ukraine crisis has however presented new challenges to Africa as the continent faces difficulties in accessing grains, fertilisers and petroleum products which have led to galloping inflation across countries, which are only beginning to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To deal with the new challenge, Prof Oramah revealed that Afreximbank has once again stepped in with the launch of a US$4 billion Ukraine Crisis Adjustment Trade Finance Programme for Africa (UKAFPA) to help countries to contain the short-term impacts of the crisis.
He however pointed out that the success of the bank’s interventions “reminds us of the urgency not only to support our own institutions but to make them stronger and more effective”.
“A stronger Afreximbank and, indeed a stronger group of African Development Finance Institutions, can be one of the solid pillars on which Africa’s development can be built,” he said.
In line with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Prof Oramah said, Afreximbank had disbursed about US$20 billion in support of intra-African trade and investments, with plans to disburse US$40 billion during the next five years.
“In doing so, we are also supporting African contractors to bid for African infrastructure-related projects.
“Over the last few years, about US$12 billion of such projects have been supported.”
The need for strong infrastructure and as well as strong financial institutions was supported by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Dr Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and other panelists.
In his intervention remarks, during a panel discussion on “Making the AfCFTA work for the Africa we want,” President El-Sisi said the continent needs “proper infrastructure” to fulfill its dreams.
He said the main challenge faced by the continent is to have a continental infrastructure that allows billions of young people to move across countries.
He said smaller countries such as Ukraine are able to export millions of goods because they have the infrastructure and technology needed.
“This is what we need too and we can even do more,” President El Sisi said.
He however questioned where the continent will find capital to fund its infrastructure projects.
“The funds and investments are huge and we need the financing.”
In response, Dr Songwe said funding can be done through capacitating institutions such as the Afreximbank.
“If we pull our pension funds together we can have trillions of dollars of resources to support our infrastructure needs,” she said.
“This vision can become a reality, but it starts with us, using our resources, using our institutions like the Afreximbank.”
AAM2022, which runs through Saturday 18 June 2022, is being held under the theme ‘Realizing the AfCFTA Potential in the Post-Covid-19 Era by Leveraging the Power of the Youth’.
Sessions include the meetings of the Advisory Group on Trade Finance and Export Development in Africa and the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders of the Bank, complemented by a full programme of seminars and plenaries featuring insights from senior government ministers, senior executives of international and continental organisations and authorities, captains of industry, and leading economists, amongst others.