Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, has called for the creation of an emblematic ‘Made-in-Africa’ brand that would promote intra-African trade and boost the international export of African products.
Obasanjo made the call in Durban, South Africa, at the ongoing Intra-African Trade Fair 2021 (IATF2021), holding between Nov. 15 and Nov 21.
A statement issued on Thursday by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), said that during a conversation session, Obasanjo told the group that having a ‘Made-in-Africa’ brand would instill a sense of pride in each African country.
He said that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was working to remove the divisions that were brought about by colonialism, where Africa had been divided into regions based on the languages of the colonisers.
According to him, the shared vision of IATF2021 participants and the traders at the fair would bring 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,” he said.
Earlier, during a panel session on ‘Integrating African manufacturers into regional and global value chains’, Ms Gwen Mwaba, Afreximbank’s Director and Global Head for Trade Finance, said that Africa had an abundance of ideas but often did not have the knowhow to convert them into viable and profitable businesses.
Mwaba said that this has resulted in lost of intellectual property.
She described the challenge as three-pronged and that Africans had a plethora of good ideas that were 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,” she said.
The director suggested the use of education to address the intellectual property challenge in Africa, adding that the resulting business ideas could be harnessed and given a chance at success with the support available from Afreximbank.
She further said that Africa needed more industrial development zones built by the public sector, where the cost of production and manufacturing was reduced and several countries could combine their 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.
“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.”
Also, Mr Ebenezer Tafili, Deputy Director, Capacity Building, World Customs Organisation, said that there is the need to create the kind of operating environment needed to allow Africa’s ideas to flourish.
Tafili said that the ideas would leverage the free trade agreement which was one where the political will of each country matched its potential to grow its manufacturing sector.
“The 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,” he said.
The event is organised by Afreximbank in collaboration with the African Union and the AfCFTA Secretariat.
The fair which will end on Nov. 21 is providing a platform to promote trade under the AfCFTA.
It features over 6,000 buyers, sellers and other stakeholders participating to share trade, investment and market information.
The fair also provides opportunity for trade finance and trade facilitation solutions designed to support intra-African trade and Africa’s economic integration.