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Business News of Monday, 15 November 2021

Source: www.sunnewsonline.com

Afreximbank to disburse $40 billion to support intra-African trade for next five years - Oramah

Benedict Oramah with President Muhammadu Buhari Benedict Oramah with President Muhammadu Buhari

The President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Benedict Oramah, has disclosed that the bank has committed to disburse $40 billion to support intra-African trade over the next five years, building on the $20 billion dollars disbursed in the past five years.

Oramah spoke Monday at the opening of the 2nd Intra African Trade Fair (IATF) at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa.

He said the Trade fair is "in demonstration of our will, as a people, to defy the dark clouds cast by the COVID-19 pandemic and continue our journey towards collective self-reliance as Africans. We hinge our fate on trade, that powerful tool that can be a source for good and bad. It was a trade that led to the fragmentation of Africa; it was a trade that took millions of Africans against their will to far-away lands. Today, we embrace the same trade as an instrument for progress; as a tool for reversing the damage it inflicted on Africa over many decades."

Oramah, listing the many initiatives the bank was implementing to guarantee the success of the AfCFT, said that the bank is also providing Letters of Credit Confirmation lines to African commercial banks to support cross-border trade.

"It is our aim to onboard 500 banks with aggregate lines of over 8 billion US Dollars. The Bank has so far onboarded nearly 480 and is today the Bank with the widest messaging links with African banks," he said.

"Working with the AU and the AfCFTA Secretariat, we have created a Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) to facilitate cross-border payments in national currencies. The System, which is currently piloting in the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), will strengthen national currencies, integrate Africa’s payment infrastructure, and save the continent about 5 billion US dollars in transfer charges. Above all, it will return to Africa, large volumes of trade diverted away from the continent due to currency issues. Afreximbank is supporting the pilot in an amount of 500 million US dollars and expects to expand this to 3 billion US dollars when fully adopted across Africa.

"We are piloting an African Collaborative Transit Guarantee Scheme that will facilitate an uninterrupted flow of goods across multiple borders with a single transit bond, operating on a risk-sharing platform with country-specific issuers.

“Afreximbank is committing $1 billion to the Scheme. We envisage that this Scheme will save the continent over $300 million in transit cost annually. And with it, goods can move from Cape to Cairo seamlessly, saving time and costs.

"We have created a Trade Information Portal that will complement the Trade Fair in availing information about market and investment opportunities across Africa.

"This Artificial Intelligence-enabled System will help develop predictable supply chains and enhance connectivity among African businesses. A Customer Due Diligence Repository Platform (also called the MANSA Platform) has been created to ease the cost of compliance and to restore investor confidence in, and attract investments into, Africa. The MANSA Platform issues African Entity Identifier (AEI) numbers that act as a passport for accessing certain services. About 1,500 entities from all across Africa have already been onboarded on the platform.

"We are working with the AfCFTA Secretariat to create an $8 billion AfCFTA Adjustment Facility that will cushion African countries from fiscal revenue losses from the tariff removals associated with the AfCFTA and to help the private sector to retool their operations as they reorient their operations towards the continental market.

"We have created the Fund for Export Development in Africa to support manufacturing, particularly light manufacturing, and agro-processing, by facilitating access to equity finance.

"In partnership with the AU, the AfCFTA Secretariat, and other partners, we have created this $20 million biennial Intra- African Trade Fair that will help improve business to business connectivity in Africa. The Bank is also working with several African Governments to create and or expand Industrial Parks (IPs) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to address the infrastructure bottlenecks to industrialisation. Projects in the aggregate amount of about $1.2 billion US dollars have been implemented or underway across ten countries.

"Also, the Bank has launched the African Quality Assurance Centre (AQAC) initiative through which it is developing infrastructure with up-to-date technology for the testing and certification of agro-processed and manufactured goods for intra-African trade and trade with the world. In addition to the automotive standards, we have so far supported the harmonisation of 121 Standards for healthcare and medical equipment."

The President of, African Development Bank Group, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said that "investors know: if you’re not in Africa, you’re not in business.”

He said they know that with over 50 countries harmonising tariffs, rules and standards, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area will soon become the largest free trade area in the world since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation.

He said the fair was the right event at the right time.

"The Africa Continental Free Trade Area will create a market of 1.3 billion people and drive a combined gross domestic product of $3.3 billion. The size of consumer and business expenditures in Africa will rise to $6.7 trillion by 2030," Adesina said.

"The African Development Bank Group is a strong supporter of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. Especially now, as we build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to boost intra-regional trade has never been greater.

"Africa’s gross domestic product contracted by 2.1% last year. Trade volumes were down by 8% for exports and about 16% for imports. The pandemic pushed some 30 million people into extreme poverty. Another 39 million remain at risk.

"Business as usual is a luxury we cannot afford. Africa’s recovery must be a green and resilient recovery. A recovery that leads to quality health infrastructure and a strong indigenous pharmaceutical sector. A recovery that speeds up Africa’s industrialisation, reduces our exposure to the vagaries of global commodity markets and takes full advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.

"The Africa I envisage is a healthy continent that looks well after itself. A continent also that has seized upon industrialisation to fully unleash the 4th industrial revolution. Technological advances offered by the 4th industrial revolution could be Africa’s revolution and pave the way to an era of unprecedented prosperity.

"A strong and diverse manufacturing sector will enable Africa to mitigate the risks commonly associated with commodity exports. It will help us withstand exogenous shocks of the kind we are currently experiencing as a consequence of the pandemic. Moreover, it will offer stable employment for our burgeoning youth."