Statement of Prof. Benedict O. Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) At the Opening Ceremony of the 2021 Intra-African Trade Fair Holding in Durban, South Africa, on November 15, 2021


His Excellency, Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa 

His Excellency, Félix Tshisekedi, AU Chairperson and President, the Democratic Republic of the Congo 

H.E. Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, President, Republic of Ghana 

H.E. Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe

H.E. Dr Lazarus Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi

H.E. Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia

H.E. Faure Gnassingbé, President of the Republic of Togo

H.E. Hussein Mwinyi, President of the People’s Republic of Zanzibar

H.E. Édouard Ngirente Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda 

H.E. Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the African

Union Commission representing H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, 

Chairperson of the Commission  

Our esteemed host, His Excellency, Sihle Zikalala, Premier, KwaZulu-Natal Province 

His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman of the IATF Advisory 

Council and Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 

H.E. Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank Group 

H.E. Dr Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of UNECA 

H.E. Mr Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat (AfCFTA)

Ms Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director, International Trade Center

H.E. Commissioner Muchanga and other AU Commissioners here present 

Honourable Ministers and Governors of Central Banks here present  

Your Excellencies, African Union Envoys and Heads of International Organisations

Your Excellencies, Ambassadors, and members of the Diplomatic Corps

Members of the Board of Directors and the Former Presidents of Afreximbank 

Executive Vice Presidents of Afreximbank  

Managing Director of Intra-African Trade Initiative at Afreximbank, Mrs Kanayo Awani

CEOs and Members of the Board of Afreximbank Subsidiaries

Captains of Industry and heads of partner financial institutions  

Our dear sponsors who made this event possible

Colleagues at Afreximbank

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Sawubona! Good morning!

We gather here in Durban, an important trade gateway into Africa, 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 trade that led to the fragmentation of Africa; it was 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. 

The history of the KwaZulu Natal Province underscores the power of trade.  It tells us a tale of a Province that suffered immensely in the hands of those attracted by its wealth and ease of access to the rest of the world, but which has also flourished because of the gateway it offers to the world. So, as the KwaZulu Natal Province hosts the second edition of the Intra-African Trade Fair, it proves beyond doubt that, just as it helped to integrate Africa into the global economy, it can also integrate Africa as a people.

Special thanks to His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa, and his Government for their strong support for this Trade Fair and for receiving our leaders and all delegates, performers, buyers, sponsors, and exhibitors with open arms. We are able to assemble here physically because of your bold and visionary leadership in creating the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), which has helped Africa to eventually begin to have meaningful access to the COVID-19 vaccines. We also thank South Africans for the legendary hospitality shown to us since we arrived here. And to His Excellency Sihle Zikalala, Honourable Premier of the great Province of KwaZulu Natal, his Government and the people of KwaZulu Natal, we express our profound appreciation for their warm welcome. You have received us all, many as we are, with open arms. We feel at home, not because of the beautiful rolling hills and grasslands that surround us but because we find warmth in the hearts of our hosts. 

I will also like to join in welcoming Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Governments and the Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission for creating the time to be here despite your very busy schedules. Your presence is a resounding endorsement of the Intra-African Trade as a tool for boosting regional integration. I hope it will be understood if I especially thank my President, His Excellency Mahamadou Buhari, for joining us today with a strong delegation to support us. I would also like to respectfully acknowledge with much appreciation, the presence of his Excellency, Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, H.E. Dr Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UNECA, AU Commissioners as well as Honourable Ministers and distinguished leaders of African and international organisations, and esteemed guests for joining us to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Your presence reflects your firm belief in the transformative power of the Intra-African Trade Fair, as well as the enduring bond of friendship we enjoy. And to you, our sponsors, the exhibitors, buyers, performers and, indeed, our youth, on whom our future lies, I say a big welcome and thanks for rising to the opportunity the Trade Fair offers.

Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies, and gentlemen, we must all be proud to have reignited the flame lit decades ago but which prematurely burned out. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) held the first-ever pan-African trade fair in 1972. The “All African Trade Fair,” as it was then branded, was held under the theme “to promote intra-African trade, intensify the appropriate trade infrastructure, and develop economic cooperation at all levels.” His Excellency, President Jomo Mzee Kenyatta, in his welcome remarks at the event, said, and I quote: 

“This Fair will send out to the world an inspiring message of the brotherhood of Africa. It will also represent, in a most practical fashion, the determination of modern Africa to proceed along highways of more rapid development and greater self-reliance through the proper deployment of our own talents and resources. Against a background of social events and cultural entertainments, this trade fair will be unique in its assembly of natural and manufactured goods and through its display of commercial potential.”


That vision is alive with us today as it was in 1972. It underscores why we are gathered here in Durban; and validates our determination to forge ahead as an integrated continent with shared aspirations. It also underpins our commitment to meet every two years, under the auspices of the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF), to celebrate our cultures, share ideas, and experiences; to trade among ourselves in unique product offerings and discuss investment opportunities. 

The Intra-African Trade Fair is a collaborative effort of Afreximbank, the African Union Commission (AUC), and the AfCFTA Secretariat, along with other key partners, including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the AfroChampions Initiative, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), the World Trade Centre (WTC), Miami, the Pan-African Chamber of Commerce, Invest Africa, and AeTrade Group. The journey began in 2018 when the first edition of the Fair was held in Cairo under the auspices of His Excellency Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Your Excellencies, the second edition was planned to hold last year in Kigali, Rwanda but was postponed due to the ravages of the COVID-19 Pandemic that affected the timely delivery of the brand-new Exhibition Centre the Government of Rwanda had set out to construct to host the event. In the end, it was agreed among all parties that, given the importance of holding the Trade Fair in the year of commencement of trading under the AfCFTA, we needed to find another destination with ready infrastructure to host a Fair of the size envisaged.

The KwaZulu Natal Province, a contender to host the 2023 edition of the Fair, rose to the challenge and stepped in as an alternate destination. We thank the Government of the KwaZulu Natal Province and the South African Government for accepting to host the Trade Fair despite the very short notice. 

Your Excellencies, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now well known that one of the most potent strategies of colonialism was to deny us information about ourselves. That is why despite over six decades of independence, Africa remains a continent of 55 fragmented nations. And I must add that the promise of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will remain an illusion unless we reverse engineer the old colonial construct of perverse information flows. The Intra-African Trade Fair is a solid tool at our disposal to achieve that. The Trade fair will open the African market to African businesses; it will enable us to build trust amongst ourselves, open investment opportunities that we never knew existed and begin to foster the emergence of regional value chains. It is the trade information flow that the Trade Fair will facilitate, that will bring down the 87,000 kilometres of borders that divide us.

It is the Trade Fair that can help us to begin to reverse some of the absurdities we see today in Africa’s trade patterns whereby many African countries import from outside Africa at a much higher cost the same products a neighbouring African country exports to the world at a lower price. This is why I once said:

“The political act of signing the AfCFTA will not open borders, nor will it make Kenyan shoe manufacturers buy their hides from Burundi, around the corner, instead of New Zealand, thousands of miles away! Sloganeering and waving the AfCFTA flag are good for morale but will not bring down the border between Nigeria and the Benin Republic, nor will it make it easier for an Egyptian Coffee roaster to buy Ugandan coffee directly from Uganda, instead of, from Italy.” 

Reversing these anomalies would require a deliberate effort to connect African buyers and sellers, deepen knowledge of Africans about their continent by facilitating least cost access to trade and investment information. Your Excellencies, this is what this event offers to Africa and its partners. We are fulfilling a key deliverable under the African Union’s Boosting Intra-Africa-Trade (BIAT) strategy.

Our proof-of-concept, the first Intra-Africa Trade fair held in December 2018, was a resounding success. It attracted 1,100 exhibitors and about 7,000 participants from 45 countries and facilitated the signature of deals worth about 32 billion US dollars. I am pleased to inform you that about 25 billion US dollars of the deals have been implemented, with another 2.5 billion being processed, representing an incredible success rate of 83 percent. Your Excellencies, beyond the numbers, the impact on real people has been humbling. For instance, 

ü A young Nigerian entrepreneur, who participated in the 2018 trade fair, thanks to the Elumelu Foundation, was identified by Singaporean investors at the Trade Fair and now produces drones for agricultural purposes in Singapore.

ü It was at the 2018 Trade Fair that the Government of South Sudan and El Sewedy Electric of Egypt entered a deal that led to the development of a major solar power project in South Sudan.

ü It was at the 2018 Trade fair that the largest intra-African EPC contract for a hydroelectric power project in an amount of 2.9 billion U.S. dollars was signed between the Government of Tanzania and two leading Egyptian Engineering firms, namely El-Sewedy Electric and Arab Contractors. The financing was coordinated by Afreximbank and was fully supported by a consortium of African banks. The project will generate 2,100 Megawatts of hydroelectric power, representing 42 percent of the Tanzanian goal of generating 5,000 Megawatts by 2025, and create over 6,000 jobs in Egypt and Tanzania. 

Your Excellencies, the platform we have created does not end at showcasing the array of products and services offerings in Africa. We follow the signed deals to ultimate closures. We provide financing and advisory services to attract African and international partnerships into projects, and where projects are only at a concept stage, we avail our Project Preparation Facility to bring the concepts into bankable propositions. Afreximbank Subsidiary, the Fund for Export Development in Africa (FEDA), steps in if equity becomes a binding constraint. As you can see, the IATF platform offers a comprehensive solution. When you enter as an exhibitor, you become a member of that one family, under the umbrella of political support provided by the African Union, standing on the regulatory platform offered by the AfCFTA, and propelled by the financial and ancillary services offered by Afreximbank and its partners. 

And as we build the IATF forward together, we are reminded of the closing remarks of His Excellency, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Chairperson of the IATF Advisory Council, at the 2018 edition of the Trade Fair. He said, and I quote, 

“From all accounts, this maiden event has been successful beyond my own expectations... we have put our hands on the plough, and we cannot look back?”


We have come to Durban, with the plough firmly in our grips. We have set high targets for the 2021 edition. We expect at least 1000 exhibitors, over 10,000 visitors and buyers, and  to close deals worth over 40 billion US dollars.

We have also introduced new elements that, in our view, will help create continental value chains. The IATF partners have collaborated with the African Association of Automotive Manufacturers (AAAM) to introduce a biennial Pan African Auto Show as an integral part of the IATF. We have launched this collaborative effort here in Durban. We recognise that a robust automotive industry can catalyse the emergence of interconnected supply chains spread across the entire continent. With an average vehicle boasting over 30,000 components, a vibrant automotive sector can trigger the emergence of rubber and rubber-related auto parts industries in rubber producing countries, such as Liberia, Nigeria, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire; the development of engine parts industries in metals-producing countries, such as DRC, Zambia, South Africa and Namibia. It can also lead to a strong car batteries industry in lithium and cobalt producing countries of Zimbabwe, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia and the emergence of strong leather industries in Chad, Nigeria and East Africa among others. It is for these reasons that the IATF partners are working with AAAM, under Afreximbank grant funding, to put in place a continental automotive strategy; that is why Afreximbank has supported African Regional Standards Organisations (ARSO) to harmonise over 43 auto standards on the continent. The Auto show is a natural complement to these efforts. We invite you to visit the Show and thank the AAAM and our sponsors for making it possible. 

We have also expanded the Culture and Creatives event to showcase the continent’s vast cultural diversity and abundant creative talents. Under the platform of the Creative Africa Nexus (CANEX), the Fairgrounds will come alive from November 19 with music, dance, art, craft, fashion, poetry, and the best of Africa’s creative talents at home and from the Diaspora. CANEX will expose young talents, offer capacity building, open market access opportunities and foster collaboration that can showcase the best of Africa. We invite you to participate actively and thank our sponsors for their support. Please come and listen as we unveil the music the Grammy Award winner, Vincent Berry II, crowd-produced with young talents from all over Africa under a branded “COOKOUT” programme sponsored by Afreximbank. The music titled “Tell Me” has now been placed with Universal Music Studios, and all our youth who contributed to it hold the copyright. We are proud to be opening opportunities for our talented young creatives to own valuable intellectual property.

Determined to prove that our vibrant youth population can be an asset and not a liability, we have also launched an expansive youth pavilion under AUC’s auspices during this Fair. The pavilion will showcase the innovation of Africa’s youth start-ups. We have invited venture capital and equity funds to interact with them and explore investment opportunities. Special thanks to AeTrade, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Bank of Industry, Nigeria, the Province of KwaZulu Natal and others who worked with Afreximbank, the AUC and the AfCFTA Secretariat to make this possible. You are welcome to visit the pavilion and interact with the more than 300 youth carefully selected from across Africa. That is the pavilion of the future, and you must not miss it.

Consistent with the times we are in, we have introduced a hybrid format to the event, with about 200 countries and companies exhibiting virtually under our platform, IATF Virtual. Some of you may recall that we launched the Virtual Trade Fair in 2018 as an online add-on offering to those exhibiting physically. This year, some countries and exhibitors have chosen only the virtual option. You are humbly reminded to visit the country pavilions and booths exhibited in the IATF Virtual. 

And finally, we have also introduced a sub-Sovereigns conference to create a platform for sub-national governments across Africa to interact and share ideas. We thank His Excellency, Premier Zikalala, for agreeing to host the maiden conference. We welcome the Governors and Premiers from across Africa who are here for that purpose. 

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, these new additions will complement the Exhibitions and the Trade and Investment Conference that form the core of IATF events.

Your Excellencies, as I approach the end of my speech, I would like to draw our attention to a quote in a study conducted by three scholars last year. Cramer, Sanders and Ogubey wrote, and I quote:

“One reason to query expectations for intra-African trade is the dismally poor implementation record of regional integration agreements. Despite decades of negotiations and agreements within subregions and regional economic communities in Africa, Intra-African trade remains a tiny proportion of the continent’s overall trade … while African regional economic integration and greater intra-African trade may be rhetorically appealing on [the] grounds of economic nationalism or south-south solidarity; as a blueprint for accelerated development, it is a fantasy.”


Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we must prove these and the very many naysayers wrong. We are already doing so. This Fair is the starting point. And there are other reasons why they are wrong. Today, we have a strong and dynamic AfCFTA Secretariat with the knowledge and energy to drive the AfCFTA Agenda. There is an alignment with the AU, and importantly, Afreximbank is a vital partner in implementing the AfCFTA, filling a critical financing gap that has been the bane of other sub-regional arrangements.

Your Excellencies, trade agreements have worked in more mature markets because they have institutional mechanisms that support their implementation. Africa is beginning to build its own institutions. Afreximbank is one of them. That is why the Bank is unrelenting in its support for the AfCFTA. 

For instance, we have committed to disbursing 40 billion US dollars to support intra-African trade over the next five years, building on the 20 billion US dollars disbursed in the past five years. We are 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. 

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 US dollars to the Scheme. We envisage that this Scheme will save the continent over 300 million US dollars 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 US dollar 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 US dollar 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. 

Your Excellencies, these are among the many initiatives we are implementing to guarantee the success of the AfCFTA. We invite you to visit the Afreximbank pavilion to see for yourselves the interventions, products, and facilities available at Afreximbank. Our team members are there to answer your questions.

Permit me now to, once again, thank His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa, all the Heads of State and Governments here present, Honourable Premier Sihle Zikalala, and all distinguished guests for joining this opening ceremony. I will also like to especially thank the sponsors for their generosity. Without them, this event would have been difficult to host. Special thanks to His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chair of the IATF Advisory Council, Mr Jean-Loius Ekra, Vice-Chair, and all members of the Council for the enormous support and sacrifice. Our appreciation also goes to the event organisers Reed, Brand Communications, and others. It is also time to recognise the handwork and sacrifice of our indefatigable IATF team led by Mrs Kanayo Awani, Managing Director, Intra Africa Trade Initiative, and the team at KwaZulu Natal Province, under the able leadership of Premier Sihle Zikalala. Thank you very much!

I congratulate us all again on the historic event of today. 

Thank you for your kind attention. Ngiyabonga!


Prof Benedict Oramah

President and Chairman of the Board of Directors