Obasanjo pushing $27b free trade agreement

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has advised African leaders to sign  the African  Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), which promises $27billion investments.

Obasanjo, who spoke yesterday in Cairo, Egypt at the opening of the Intra-African Conference prior to the unveiling of the first Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF), said the fair was necessary to actualise ACFTA,  which, he stressed,  is vital for the continent’s transformation. “It is, therefore, imperative that all African governments, who believe in Africa’s progress, should not only sign the  ACFTA, but should ratify it at once, making a way for its implementation,” Obasanjo said.

The first of its kind in Africa, IATF is expected to churn out deals worth over $27 billion. Obasanjo said the event had been designed to drive inter-African trade and support the implementation of ACFTA. He tagged ACFTA    a landmark agreement in the context of its value in economic integration, transformation  and progress in Africa’s development.

The trade fair, in his words, “will give each participant a platform for sharing in the context of African trade, investment and economic integration, leading to the  transformation and  development  of the continent.

“It will give opportunities to investors to showcase their goods and services  and share with others the trend and market openings.”

Obasanjo praised the Africa-Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) and its Chairman, Prof. Benedict Oramah, for its contributions towards bringing the IATF dream to fruition.

He said: “When we started planning for the project, we did not have any financial resources.  Afreximbank provided significant financial resources, but Professor Oramah and  other senior management members of the bank committed so much of their time and resources with enthusiasm ad conviction that the trade fair would pay-off and would contribute ultimately towards the actualization of the ACFTA, which will play a vital role in driving business and generating employment  across the continent.

“Afreximbank and the AU have worked tirelessly since the announcement of the trade fair in Kigali in March this year,” he stated.

Obasanjo said that without uninhibited trading among African countries, intra-African trade fair will amount to a sham.

“Africa needs to focus on what trade is needed, where the markets are, the size of the markets, and the standards required by those markets; how and where to implement the value chains that serve the market.

“We also need to fashion out the medium of payment within Africa for intra-African trade expeditions. These factors need to be combined in ensuring that there is commercially viable return and that the markets chosen are sustainable.”

He said when Africa actualises its potential, it would earn more respect from the human race.

Oramah said Africa was making history at the IATF by reversing the colonial strategy of divide-and-rule, adding that  the event signalled Africa’s readiness for economic independence. As he put it, “Africa should use the force of history to change the course of history,” he said.

Some 1,150 exhibitors from 80 countries are to participate in the fair, with close to 40 from outside the continent.

A large number of exhibitors, many of them from Nigeria, are at the fair. The Managing Director of the Bank of Industry (BoI), Olukayode Pitan, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Chairman Tony Elumelu, BoI Executive Director, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Waheed Olagunju are at the fair. Dangote Group, Fidelity Bank, several firms from Europe, Turkey, China, Indonesia, among others, are there. The Prime Minister of the Arab Democratic Republic of Egypt, Mustafa Madbouly represented the Egyptian President at the opening ceremony.

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