#IATF: Africa for Africans, strengthening trade on the continent

The IATF is expected to provide a platform for information sharing and opportunities to tap into the market of the more than one billion people brought together by the free trade agreement.

The Intra-African Trade Fair is the first of its kind in Africa bringing together businesses from across Africa. It is happening in Cairo, Egypt from 11-17 December. Picture: @iatf2018/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – Following the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA) by over 40 African Union (AU) member states, the first ever Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) will take place over seven days in December in Cairo, Egypt.

The fair, a collaboration between the Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the AU, is expected to deepen trade ties between African countries by providing a platform for information sharing and opportunities to tap into the market of the more than one billion people brought together by the AfCTA.

Speaking at an engagement session that was held in Cairo at the weekend, Afreximbank President Dr Benedict Oramah said the lack of information is what fuels trade diversion.

One of the main objectives of the fair is to address that, he added.

“The fair will begin to open the platform for connecting African distances, making it possible for people to know what is going on within Africa, [thus] making it possible for intra-African investment to happen.”

The bank says it aims to promote accessibility by creating a database and trade portal for the dissemination of information using mobile apps.

"The trade portal will make it possible for those who have mobile phones to be able to get information. Some will be free, some will be paid for, but at least people will know what is available on the continent.”

A virtual exhibition component will facilitate trade beyond the 11- 17 December event.

AFRICA’S SHOT AT INDUSTRIALISATION

Afreximbank managing director, Kayano Owani, says the IATF presents an opportunity for Africa to industrialise.

“Industrialisation is a big part of the programme, the reason being that African countries all produce commodities in their primary form. But can we sell primary commodities to ourselves? The answer is no.”

However, infrastructure remains a general challenge on the continent as governments simply do not have the money to invest in it, while potential investors outside country borders need economic incentives.

The bank's president, Dr Oramah, says African countries lose more than just money by not trading among themselves.

"If we don't trade among ourselves, we are not going to see intra-regional development; we are not going to see regional infrastructure. Beyond the trade that is diverted, because of our colonial history, the biggest problem is the things we lose because we are not trading among ourselves."

The trade fair is expected to bring together more than 1,000 exhibitors, and Owani says she's encouraged by the interest thus far.

"We have received confirmation from different countries and companies. I think so far we have about 80 confirmations. The marketing drive is still on."

The Egypt engagement session is one of four that will take place ahead of the grand event at the Egypt International Exhibition Centre in December. The next sessions will take place in South Africa, Kenya and Cote D'Ivoire.