Pan-African multilateral finance institution, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), is calling for an increase in intra-African trade and financing on the back of the continent’s youth and technology resources. Speaking during the 29th Annual Meetings of Afreximbank on June 15 in Cairo, Prof. Benedict Okechukwu Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, made a strong case for increasing intra-African trade, providing insight into the challenges restricting trade and providing clear solutions as to how the continent can resolve them. The African Energy Chamber (AEC), as the voice of the African energy sector, commends the organization for this drive, and will support Afreximbank as it moves to awaken Africa’s full developmental potential.
Prof. Oramah’s suggestions come at a time when Africa is well positioned to become a highly competitive trade hub. In January 2021, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) was implemented, ushering in a new era of simplified trade in Africa. A year on, the continent has been slow to unlock the full potential of this agreement, leading to an accelerated push by the Afreximbank to promote intra-African trade and finance in Africa.
“While the problem was identified decades ago, it is only now that Africa can boast of possessing a combination of factors that can resolve it. These consist of visionary and committed leadership, the youth, and digital technology. Our leadership has done the courageous work of giving us the AfCFTA. A lot now hinges on our youth. It is for this reason that Afreximbank dedicated this year’s Annual Meeting to the theme, “Realizing the AfCFTA Potential in the Post-COVID-19 Era: Leveraging the Power of The Youth,” stated Prof. Oramah in this opening remarks.
Africa’s youth represent the key to accelerating strong and sustainable economic growth. Representing one of the youngest and fastest growing populations worldwide, the continent has all the ingredients to create highly attractive domestic markets on the back of improved intra-African trade and commerce. The Afreximbank, as a trade-finance focused development bank, is not only an advocate but key driver of Africa’s economic growth, and the AEC recognizes the contributions of the bank to Africa’s developmental future.
As Prof. Oramah stated, “It is our view that the youth will be the catalytic force to the realization of the continental agenda. Indeed, the youth have always been the catalyst to economic transformations and at the base of every industrial revolution in advanced economies. It is no coincidence that at the height of each Industrial Revolution, youth constituted the largest proportion of the labor force and population.”
Therefore, by focusing on capacity building, skills transfer and the upliftment of the domestic workforce, while at the same time injecting capital into small to medium enterprises and African startups, the continent will see intra-African trade expanded and market growth realized.
“We believe that Afreximbank’s demonstrated drive for enhanced intra-African trade will only strengthen Africa’s socioeconomic development. Frameworks such as the AfCFTA have made it possible to increase trade within and across the continent, and now, everyday Africans need to capitalize on the opportunities presented by this framework and develop an Africa that we are proud of, an Africa that everyday Africans deserve,” stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the AEC, adding that, “Going forward, it is important for us to de-risk African investments and drive commercial opportunities within African countries. Afreximbank has been one of the main drivers of energy transactions across the continent and have been willing to drive up things including solar, wind and other renewables, as well as oil and natural gas. What’s more, in a post-COVID-19 era, Afreximbank stood with Africans, assessing communities that are at risk and made sure vaccinations were provided,” Ayuk continued.
“Whether a youth-powered AfCFTA will trigger a continental economic explosion or whether the next decades will become ‘Lost Decades’ for Africa will depend on how we creatively deploy the energies and talents of the continent’s youth to implement the AfCFTA,” Prof. Oramah concluded.