…Covid-19 vaccines roll-out cited for date shift
…Inaugural fair recorded $32.6bn concluded deals
…Organizers refrain from adducing expected deals
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The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and African Union (AU), major promoters of the intra-African trade fair, have shifted the date of the second edition of the recently introduced continental trade exhibition to December this year, to allow for a broader roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines across the continent, and ensure that the event is held under the most optimal health conditions.
The Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021) would now take place from 8 to 14 December 2021 in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, away from September 6 – 12, the earlier scheduled date of the fair. The decision was made at the extraordinary meeting of the IATF2021 advisory council held virtually on 18 March 2021.
According to Olusegun Obasanjo, chairman of IATF2021 advisory council and former Nigerian president, the new date will enable organizers to take stock of all the latest safety precautions, allow for wider roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and to put in place effective COVID-19 safety and prevention protocols.
He said the new date would also give countries and businesses more time to prepare for the IATF2021.
“Our intent is that all participants garner the full benefits of the abundant networking, trade and investment opportunities that will arise at IATF2021. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot of enthusiasm for the event. The extra time given to preparatory activities and effective roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines will allow IATF2021 to be held under favourable conditions, giving more confidence to participating governments, exhibitors, buyers, conference delegates and other visitors,” said Obasanjo.
He added that, IATF2021 will bring together continental and global players to showcase and exhibit their goods and services, and explore business and investment opportunities enabled by the single market created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to accelerate Africa’s integration and industrialisation agenda.”
IATF2021 will provide a platform that will allow trade under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. It will serve as a marketplace that will bring together continental and global buyers and sellers. It will enable stakeholders to share trade, investment and market information as well as trade finance and trade facilitation solutions designed to support intra-African trade and African economic integration.
The above only remain expectations of organizers of the trade exhibition if Covid-19 allows the continent get back quickly to pre-pandemic level. But this remains a conjecture. Most of the continent’s commodity-dependent countries like Nigeria (the biggest economy) have been hardest-hit by the virus, and are gasping for breath.
Unlike the inaugural edition of the IATF held in Cairo, Egypt in December 2018, figures released then by Afreximbank, the key organizer, said, the event recorded deals valued at $32.6 billion. Whether IATF2021 would repeat the 2018 feat or surpass it, remains in the imagination of development economists and trade experts.
This year’s fair, the organizers have carefully refrained from citing any figures in expected business deals no thanks to Covid-19 pandemic which has particularly pounded the African economy. The continent has been hardest-hit by the virus’ knock-on effects.
The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) 2021 African Economic Outlook report said Africa’s growth prospects this 2021 would be bullish, with the continent expected to recover from its worst recession in half a century, reaching a 3.4 per cent growth in the year. However, average debt-to-GDP ratio would climb by 10 to 15 percentage points in the short-to-medium term.
But Afreximbank, organizer of IATF2021, in collaboration with the African Union and hosted by the Government of Rwanda, is optimistic that the fair “will play a crucial role in assisting and enabling businesses and corporates across Africa to share trade and market information and conclude business deals that are critical in supporting the implementation of the AfCFTA.”
It said, the fair would establish a business-to-business and a business-to-government exchange platform for business deals and advisory services, operate a virtual, interactive online platform accessible to all.
“It will focus on Africa’s creative economy, as well as the automotive industry with dedicated programs. A conference will run alongside the exhibition, and will feature high-profile speakers and panellists addressing topical issues relating to trade, trade finance, payments, trade facilitation, trade-enabling infrastructure, trade standards, industrialization, regional value chains and investment,” Afreximbank said in a statement.