Former Nigerian head of state Olusegun Obasanjo has urged policymakers to create a Made-in-Africa brand that will promote intra-African trade and boost the international exports of products made within the continent,
Speaking during the third day of the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF), Obasanjo told the audience that having a Made-in-Africa brand would instill a sense of pride in each African state. He said that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was working to remove the divisions that were inherited from colonial rule, when the continent was divided into different administrative units.
Obasanjo said that the shared vision of IATF 2021 participants and traders attending the Fair is what will spark the AfCFTA to life. “I have been impressed by the interaction of people at the IATF. People are working together and this creates the environment in which miracles can happen.”
Earlier on, during the panel session on ‘Integrating African Manufacturers into Regional and Global Value Chains’, Gwen Mwaba, Afreximbank’s Director and Global Head for Trade Finance said that Africa had an abundance of ideas but often not the knowhow to convert them into viable and profitable businesses, resulting in great loss of intellectual property. Describing the challenge as three-pronged Mwaba said, “Africans have a plethora of good ideas that are not followed-up. For those that are followed up, the good ideas are not sustained; and the few good ideas that are followed-up and sustained are often not rigorously maintained.”
Mwaba advocated for the use of education to address the intellectual property challenge in Africa, saying that the resulting business ideas could be harnessed and developed through support from Afreximbank and other development partners.
During the forum, it was observed that Africa needs more industrial development zones built by governments, where the cost of production and manufacturing is reduced and several countries could combine industrial strengths to meet common goals. “By leveraging innovative multi-country collaborative models, African countries can start to manufacture and export products to the rest of the world,” she urged. “Asia has done this successfully with brands such as Hyundai, whose vehicle components are manufactured and assembled by different entities all working to leverage their individual capabilities.
In his contribution, Ebenezer Tafili, Deputy Director, Capacity Building, at the World Customs Organisation, said that the kind of operating environment needed to allow Africa’s ideas to flourish and leverage the free trade agreement was one where the political will of each country matched its potential to grow its manufacturing sector.
It was also noted that AfCFTA needs political will to support its success, which requires collaborative private-public partnerships to ensure viability. “Without a strategy to change policy and allow for more manufacturing and industrialisation, the notion that Africans are merely consumers and not producers will continue to exist,” Tafili said.
Organised by Afreximbank in collaboration with the African Union and the AfCFTA Secretariat, the seven-day IATF2021 is providing a platform to promote trade under the AfCFTA, and is featuring over 6,000 buyers, sellers, and other stakeholders participating to share trade, investment and market information as well as trade finance and trade facilitation solutions designed to support intra-African trade and Africa’s economic integration.