Promoting exports by SMEs seen as key to addressing forex challenges

This brought about the Africa International Trade Exhibition (AITE) which was held in the United States of America (USA) to promote trade between SMEs in Africa and North America to generate increased foreign exchange income, wealth, and employment.

The exhibition, which was sponsored by First Bank of Nigeria Limited, was themed “The Imperatives of global trade for African SMEs as a Game Changer for the continent’s future prosperity.”

Speaking at the exhibition the president and chairman of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Prof. Benedict Oramah, noted the need to promote trade particularly for SMEs on the continent to drive growth and development.

Represented by the executive vice president, of Intra-African Trade, African Export-Import Bank, Afreximbank, Mrs Kanayo Awani, Oramah said: “We must continue to leverage the platforms created by the Bank and AITE to forge partnerships, share ideas, and contribute to the growth and development of African SMEs to ensure that their potentials as the driving force for the transformation of the continent.

“As l like to say, the opportunity is now, and it has a shelf life. I am grateful to the African International Trade Exhibition (AITE) for the kind opportunity to participate in this event. I congratulate AITE for building this unique platform to rally global investments and policy support towards the attainment of the goals of the African Continental Free Trade Agreements. These activities of AITE are significant compliments to Afreximbank’s trade facilitation agenda. We are therefore pleased to be associated with AITE and its activities.”

On his part, the managing director and chief executive of First Bank, Dr Adesola Adeduntan noted that the 2023 theme beams the spotlight on a sector that can be referred to as the bedrock of Africa’s economic prosperity.

“Africa’s SME sector is also a good representation of the unyielding and resilient spirit of the African people in the face of many daunting challenges.

“With a vision to become ‘Africa’s Bank of First Choice’, FirstBank’s commitment to the development and economic transformation of the African continent is unwavering and we will continue to make the required investments to actualize this goal. I make bold to say that, in FirstBank, Africa has a dependable ally.

“Indeed, it is the turn of Africa to rise, and FirstBank is strategically positioned to provide the required financial services support to the SME sector that will catalyze the next phase of Africa’s growth and development,” he stated.

In his welcome address, the visionary of the African International Trade Exhibition project, Tunde MacAlabi, said: “The AITE project is conceived to assist African SMEs to gain greater penetration in the North American market that has huge potential.

“The African American population in the US is 30 million strong, spending close to $1.2 trillion as consumers. The popularity of our Afrobeat music, and the ground that it is gaining in North America and the globe is remarkable.

“With this idea, pushing authentic African-made products into the market to rise on the wave of the popularity of our music can diversify the sources of foreign exchange income that we accurately need in Nigeria and Africa.

“Our effort is a complementary private sector driven initiative to help bridge the commercial gap to increase the commercial engagement between Nigeria, Africa, and the USA.”

Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development of Nigeria, Festus Keyamo, whilst speaking at the exhibition, noted that “the importance of the aviation sector in Nigeria and any country cannot be overemphasized. The gains of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) cannot be realized without a robust Aviation policy in Africa that will enhance the movement of goods and personnel across Africa.

“We need to promote a robust African aviation policy and find a way to liberalize the aviation sector within Africa. I call on investors to come to Nigeria as the Aviation sector is the gateway for investment into the country, taking a cue from the speech of Mr. President yesterday to the world (during his address at the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly), we are asking investors to come and partner with us as opportunities abound in Nigeria. We have the population, market, traffic, and economy to support businesses.”

Encouraging Nigerians in the diaspora to drive foreign direct investment into the country, the minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Dr Uzoka-Anite, spoke on behalf of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, She said: “I enjoin Nigerians in the diaspora to invest in Nigeria. I know the spirit of being a Nigerian because I am one.

“We are very prosperous, resilient, persistent, bold, audacious. We like to make decisions in our favor profitably. We are also very warm and welcoming. Galvanizing all these qualities and focusing them back home will lead to us doing a whole lot.

The A.I.T.E 2023 Business, Trade, and Investment Summit convened business leaders, entrepreneurs, and government functionaries from diverse sectors across Africa and the globe.

Held on the sidelines of the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the event promotes networking amongst think tanks whilst being a viable avenue for organizations to showcase cutting-edge products and services, thereby building valuable business relationships to drive economic advancement and cooperation beyond the African continent.

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