Kenya’s positioning as the gateway to the East Africa region, together with the empowering effects of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2023), puts Kenyan businesses in a prime position to benefit from the huge growth opportunities for intra-African trade and investments. At today’s high-level business ‘Road to IATF2023’ event in Nairobi, Kenya, leading up to the third Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2023), the organisers met the business community and government representatives to raise awareness and encourage participation at the trade fair. Organised by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in collaboration with the African Union (AU) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, IATF2023 will be held from 9 to 15 November 2023 in Cairo, Egypt.
In his opening remarks, Afreximbank’s Mr. Denys Denya, Executive Vice President – Finance, Administration & Banking Services, extolled Kenya’s standing as the largest economy in East Africa, its vital leadership role in promoting intra-African trade and investments, and its positioning for production and service distribution. He also highlighted the unique and transformational opportunities that the AfCFTA and participation at the IATF2023 provides to Kenyan businesses and the East African region.
“The Roadshow seeks to provide the business community including SMEs, women, youth, with important information on the IATF’s relevance to Africa’s transformation. In that ambition we aim to empower the people of Kenya with information on trade and service as a rallying call for the full participation of the Kenyan business community during the IATF 2023.”
IATF2023 forecast to attract over 1,600 exhibitors, over 35,000 conference delegates and trade visitors from across Africa and beyond, and to result in US$43 billion of trade and investment deals being concluded.
Representing Hon. Moses Kuria, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Trade, Investments and Industry (MITI) of the Republic of Kenya, Mr. Alfred K’ Ombudo, Principal Secretary of the State Department for Trade (MITI), delivered the Keynote Address. He highlighted Afreximbank’s pivotal role as a strategic partner in advancing Kenya’s developmental goals and in addressing frontier issues that will enable intra-African trade to thrive. Mr. K’ Ombudo also spoke about how Kenya has intentionally positioned itself as a hub for foreign direct investment, serving as a source for quality goods and services. He further highlighted the nation’s proactive initiatives in the rollout of aggregation and industrial parks to promote a value chain approach. He emphasised that IATF2023 is an extremely important avenue for the African business community to establish continental networks and business contacts; and stressed the importance of all African countries being part of trade under the AfCFTA.
“If you want to trade internationally, it’s not just about bringing down tariffs, but it’s about dealing with borders. It’s about dealing with transport logistics. It’s about dealing with the shipping industry. It’s about making sure that your goods are able to arrive competitively. It’s about ensuring that you’re able to package your goods according to the requirements of the foreign market. It’s about making sure that you’re able to comply with the requirements in sanitary and phytosanitary measures and all of those issues. These are long standing long term industrial issues that we hope to work with you and with partners like Afreximbank to be able to deal with. Kenya is a key supporter of the AfCFTA.”
Giving an Afreximbank presentation, Dr. Gainmore Zanamwe, Ag. Director – Trade Facilitation and IATF, Afreximbank, spoke about how Afreximbank prides itself in being “a trade and project finance supermarket”. He highlighted the comprehensive range of trade facilitation and trade finance instrument that Afreximbank is implementing to support the AfCFTA.
At Afreximbank “we no longer want to see our natural resources exported to faraway lands without adding value. So, what we’ve done is to throw in our financial muscle, and we are now focussing on promoting industrialisation and export development and intra-African trade and the implementation of the AfCFTA under our sixth strategic plan.”
In the vibrant and insightful panel session on the theme ‘Seizing the AfCFTA Advantage: Empowering Manufacturers, Exporters, Investors and relevant industry players’ the panellists discussed numerous topics about the benefits and opportunities created by the AfCFTA, and the impact of the trade fair, with particular focus on the context of the local Kenyan market and East African region. Among the numerous issues and insight voiced by the panellists were the need for improving trade enabling infrastructure; the momentum towards establishing pan-African standards in the automotive industry; the challenges around access to markets; the plan to build warehouses in Kenya to create an ecosystem enabling different manufacturers to transport their exports in one container. The panellists also acknowledged that the creative industry has various sectors and different value chains. They also emphasised the importance of ‘buy Kenya, build Kenya’ for Kenyans to support the country’s economic growth and development; the need for Kenya to grow its exports beyond just the East African region to deliver growth, diversity and resilience; and the importance of Pan African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) in facilitating intra-African trade; as well as the need to build more industrial parks in Kenya to accelerate industrialisation, manufacturing and employment creation.
Delegates also enjoyed a vibrant question and answer session in which actionable insight was gleaned by the audience from the high-level panellists. Topics raised included tackling the inefficiencies and high costs of logistics; how the youth in the fashion industry could raise the visibility of their products; the high cost of locally made products; how Kenya’s customs officers are facilitating exports; how the digital trade of creatives can be accelerated; the benefits of PAPSS in settling cross-border transactions; the high cost of electricity in Kenya adversely affecting the competitiveness of local manufacturing internationally; and the need for strong and enduring Kenyan brands.
In his Closing Remarks, H.E. Wael Attiya, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Kenya, praised the intriguing and inspiring interventions of the speakers at the Kenya roadshow and the evident enthusiasm for the AfCFTA in both Kenya and Egypt. He also commented on Kenya being viewed by many as the gateway to the East Africa region.
“What we need to do is to eliminate the borders, and in this context, the trade barriers between African countries, and then it will be Africa against the outside world.” The Ambassador extended his warm invitation to all the stakeholders to IATF2023 in Cairo, Egypt and assured the delegates that all the visa processes will be facilitated.
The IATF2023 roadshow in Nairobi empowered the Kenyan private sector with information about the opportunities and benefits of participating in the IATF2023, and its role in supporting African integration and the success of the AfCFTA. IATF2023 is Africa’s premier trade and investment fair and is being held from 9 to 15 November in Cairo. As Africa’s largest trade and investment fair, the event is not to be missed for importers and exporters looking to take advantage of a single market of 1.4 billion people created by the AfCFTA with a combined Gross Domestic Product of over US$3.5 trillion.
The highly successful inaugural Intra-African Trade Fair held in Cairo, Egypt, in 2018 was followed by an even more successful IATF2021 hosted in Durban, South Africa. Collectively, the two editions of the Trade Fair brought together more than 2,500 exhibitors from 77 countries and generated over US$74 billion in trade and investment deals, demonstrating the immense potential that exists for intra-African trade. Building on this success, the third edition (IATF2023) being held in Cairo, Egypt, in November 2023, will again provide an opportunity for exhibitors to showcase their goods and services, engage in business-to-business (B2B) and Business to Government (B2G) exchanges, and conclude business deals which will ensure that the momentum toward greater intra-African trade is sustained.