BY TONY OBIECHINA
For five days, not less than 2,500 business, government and international leaders from over sixty countries garthered last week in Abuja for the Afreximbank Annual General Meetings, considered the largest trade-focused event on the continent. This year’s event took place from 11 -14 July 2018 at the Transcorp Hilton.
With the overall theme of “Celebrating the past: Shaping the future”, the event is a milestone to shape the future of Africa’s trade development.
Established in Nigeria in 1993 , with headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Afreximbank is also celebrating the bank’s quarter of a century – 25 years where it has been at the forefront of promoting trade in Africa.
According to World Trade Organisation estimates, Africa is the second fastest growing region with overall African trade growing by 2.1 per cent in 2017. Intra-regional trade is very important to the continent.
In 2017 intra-African trade grew by 8.8 per cent. With a population of 1.2 billion, Africa offers one of the biggest markets for trade and investment.
For Nigeria which is one of the biggest shareholders of the bank, it had approved financing amounting to $17 billion for the country’s entities between 1994 and December last 2017.
According to the Bank’s President, Dr. Benedict Oramah, it’s facilities had made major impact on critical sectors of the Nigerian economy, with outstanding loans of about $3.5billion as at 31 December 2017.
The sectors benefiting from the Bank’s facilities include financial institutions, transport, hospitality, manufacturing, agro-allied, oil and gas, power, and telecommunications.
Besides, Afreximbank’s support to Nigeria had included provision of liquidity and trade finance lines of more than $800 million during the banking consolidation when many international banks cut credit lines to the country and the provision of $1.8 billion to support the economy during the recent oil price shock in 2015-2016.
As the Bank has projected an estimated spending of between ninety to one hundred billion dollars for the next ten years to promote trade in Africa, what is Nigeria’s gain in this projection?
However it is cheering to note that the Bank is willing to work with the Nigerian government to arrange financing of up to $1 billion to support the governments investments in trade enabling infrastructure.
It is equally pleasing to learn that the Bank’s current initiatives in Nigeria include the development of testing and inspection centres across the country in collaboration with the Standards Organization of Nigeria; establishment of a Centre of Excellence for Tertiary Healthcare/Medical Park; potential participation in the Nigeria SEZ Investment Company, and; arrangement and disbursal of $750 million to the Bank of Industry.
But Nigeria’s reluctance to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), may stall the achievement of this noble plans for trade development on the continent and Nigeria in particular.
In spite of Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun’s reasons for Federal Government’s withholding of assent to the Agreement, Nigeria as a leader in Africa, should join 44 other countries which have endorsed the Agreement which enables them to form a three trillion-dollar continental Free Trade Zone.