Kudzanai Sharara in Cairo, Egypt
African government leaders and policy makers must eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, harmonise regulations and invest in necessary infrastructure to enable the continent to unleash its full potential.
This was said by former President of Nigeria and Chairman of the IATF2023 Advisory Council, Olusegun Obasanjo in his opening remarks while officially opening the third Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2023) which kicked off in Cairo, Egypt yesterday. I
IATF2023 is Africa’s largest trade and investment fair projected to attract over 1,600 exhibitors and 35,000 visitors and buyers. Trade and investment deals valued at US$43 billion are expected to be concluded during the trade fair seen as a must attend event for everyone interested in trade and investments in Africa’s single market of 1.4 billion people created by the AfCFTA which has a combined gross domestic product of over US$3.5 trillion.
President Obasanjo sees IATF as a platform that holds the key to unlocking Africa’s true potential and fuelling economic growth, fostering industrialisation and creating job opportunities for the people of the continent.
Addressing the estimated 36,600 participants and guests at the trade fair, President Obasanjo said that beyond being just an exhibition of goods and services, IATF2023 was a platform for networking, collaboration and knowledge sharing as it brings together entrepreneurs, investors, innovators, and policymakers from across Africa and its Diaspora to exchange ideas, forge partnerships and explore new opportunities.
“It is through this spirit of cooperation and collaboration that we will unlock the untapped potential of our continent,” he said, adding that the trade fair signified the commitment of Africa and its diaspora nations to economic integration and to their collective determination to create a prosperous future.
According to President Obasanjo IATF is a stepping stone towards a future where African nations traded freely, breaking down barriers and opening doors of opportunities for all.
He urged entrepreneurs and innovators to seize the moment to build bridges of commerce between nations and within communities by embracing the spirit of entrepreneurship and leveraging technology to unlock new markets, connect small-scale farmers with global partners and empower women-owned businesses.
Earlier, Ahmed Samir Saleh, Minister of Trade and industry of Egypt, had welcomed guests to the trade fair and expressed Egypt’s happiness at hosting the event.
Organised by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, IATF brings together continental and global players to showcase and exhibit their goods and services and to explore business and investment opportunities in the continent.
President Obasanjo, said for far too long “our economies have been relying on external markets, depriving us of the opportunity to trade among ourselves and benefit from the wealth that lies within our borders.
” The time for change has come and it is now, ” he said to an appreciative audience.
“This trade fair is all the evidence of our ambition of a united African market through the AfCFTA, Africa that trades, an Africa determined to break the shackles of economic dependency.”
Zimbabwe is one of the 75 countries participating at the fair with several firms exhibiting while others are participating in panel discussions.
Zimbabwe’s trade development and promotion organisation, Zimtrade chief executive officer Allan Majuru said with most African countries represented at IATF 2023, it gives Zimbabwe an opportunity to generate business ideas and do business to business meetings as well as talk about policy issues and infrastructure issues “that will help us achieve our goal” of fully participating under AfCFTA.
“As you might be aware one of the key milestones by the Second Republic is the construction of the modernised Beitbridge border post, which is key to grow trade among African countries.”
“You can have ideas you can have business meetings, etc, but then you need the product to move, so for that to move seamlessly and efficiently, you need also the infrastructure side to move and I am glad that as Zimbabwe we have also set the right foot in motion, ” Mr Majuru said.
This year’s IATF will end next week on the 15th.