Main Panel Session at the AfreximbankBank Intra-African Trade Conference, South Africa.

Brief Overview of IATF and the AfCFTA

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has identified intra-African trade as a critical factor for unlocking Africa’s economic potential. Although the share of intra-African trade as a percentage of total African trade has increased from 10% in 1995 to around 16% currently, it remains low compared to the levels in Europe (59%), Asia (51%), and North America (37%). One of the key reasons for the low level of intra-African trade is the lack of access to cross-border trade and market information.

Committed to transforming Africa, Afreximbank launched the biennial intra-African Trade Fair in 2018 as a unique platform to connect African buyers, sellers, and investors.

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in collaboration with the African Union and AfCFTA Secretariat, brings you the 2nd Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021), to be hosted by the Government of the Republic of South Africa in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, from 15 – 21 November 2021.

Themed “Building Bridges for a Successful AfCFTA”, a strong focus will be placed on recognising growth opportunities for intra-African cross-border trade and investments.

IATF2021 will take place 15 to 21 November 2021 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. IATF is an initiative that supports the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). It is organized by Afreximbank in collaboration with the African Union, marking an important step to sustainably addressing the gap in trade and market information for the successful realization of the AfCFTA objectives.

March 2018 marked the signing of the AfCFTA agreement by the majority of African countries. This agreement opened the way for increased intra-African trade, and also enhanced the continent’s appeal for prospective investors.

As a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, the AfCFTA will bring together 55 African countries with a combined population of more than 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) exceeding US$2.5 trillion, making the continent the largest free trade area created since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The IATF is, essentially, a gateway into the AfCFTA, heralding what will be the biggest free trade area in the world. What started out in 2018 with the inaugural IATF in Cairo, Egypt, has quickly grown into a resounding success. Trade and investment deals worth US$32 billion were concluded, and more than 1,000 exhibitors and 2,500 conference delegates from over 45 countries participated, resulting in an unprecedented platform for businesses to exponentially grow their interests through Africa.


Mr Asuquo Ekpenyong speaking at yesterday’s Main Panel Session at the AfreximbankBank Intra-African Trade Conference, South Africa.


You identified the challenges in Cross River state. You mentioned issues around capacity; but as you now prepare your young people to trade with markets beyond Cross river state but a huge continent with a huge ability and potentials.

What will you be doing differently to ensure that those young businesses are in position to succeed?


The African Continental Trade Agreement has an objective which seeks to eliminate and reduce barriers; tariff and non-tariff barriers, to trade effectively among the 54 member countries and effectively creating one of the largest single market.

I started off with the statistics as to the Youth demography and in terms of the fact that they are the people, the key success factors for whether how successful the trade agreement will be.

What we need to do is to ensure there is a lot of sensitization about the trade agreement. If that wasn’t done during the formulation of policy.  If it was done, excellent, but if that wasn’t done comprehensively enough, there is a need for sensitization at the local level, at the grassroots level, in the rural, the provincial towns, people need to know about this trade agreement.

They need to be emotionally involved, actively involved; and just by the shared providence of age and the logic of time, they have the greatest stake in this trade agreement because they have more active years of service and in commerce and I will give all that to Youth demography and I will like to think that we would want to be actively involved.

Now there are certain limitations in business that youth usually have. One is access to cheap capital. Most of the countries in Africa have weak infrastructure in terms of power, in terms of roads to provide logistics, in terms of roads to provide logistics, water and other inputs required in production or commerce.


There is need for countries in Africa to deliberately set out to empower, to build capacity among the young people; provide access to capital; Not just access to capital, more importantly that they set up a framework that gets rid of adverse selection; the moral hazards of giving money to the wrong people and ensure that the money gets to the right people who have ventures in which they intend to pursue.

If we do not do this efficiently and effectively, the truth is, what will end up happening is that, while the trade agreement is good, we may have a scenario where foreigners to the continents come into the continent, set up with as little foot print as possible in the continent, produce locally, fare unrestricted but repatriate the value out of the continent.

So there is need for the young people to be champions of AfCFTA and that started drastically by sensitization, building capacity and providing access to capital.