By Favour Nnabugwu
Africa’s share of global trade remains low at two per cent, Secretary General, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, has said.
Besides, a total of $36 billion transactions were sealed at the end of the 2021 Intra African Trade Fair (IATF).
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the event in Durban, South Africa, Mene said the continent might not record meaningful growth if it remains overly dependent on export of raw commodities.
He also expressed worry on Africa’s infrastructural deficit, currently at $100 billion, stating that this has continued to impede the continent’s trade growth. He insisted that Africans must shift from raw materials export to manufactured or finished products to accelerate industrial base and diversify exports.
According to him, because advanced and industrialised economies have better technology, manufacturing industries, access to finance, and market than Africa, they have a greater market proportion in world trade.
He suggested that African countries should focus on infrastructure development, in particular, electricity and transportation, and build new roads, bridges and railways to link major trade hubs that would improve economies of scale.
Earlier, in his closing remarks, Chairman of IATF 2021 Advisory Council, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, expressed gratitude to the organisers – the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the host, the Government of South Africa.
He thanked sponsors, IATF 2021 ambassadors, delegates, exhibitors and speakers for their contribution to the success of the event.
Obasanjo announced the city of Abijan, Côte d’Ivoire, as the next hosts of IATF 2023.
He affirmed that IATF has succeeded in making market information available, so that investors, as well as buyers and sellers, know what is available at the fair.
He described AfCFTA as a robust framework that will enhance intra-African trade and remove trade barriers. He also said the fair will play a huge role in establishing contacts and driving trade development.
Afreximbank President, Prof. Benedict Oramah, raised questions on why Africa has been unable to better penetrate the market and what could be done for it to take full advantage of the opportunity presented by IATF.
He noted that a deficit of product diversification has been singled out as a key hindrance to Africa’s access the U.S. market.
Therefore, he called for the deepening of regional value chains to enhance the continent’s global competitiveness and prosperity.
He urged African governments to support the ability of commercial banks to modernise and finance small and medium-sized businesses to boost Africa’s GDP