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Rwanda fails to host Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021), hands over to South Africa

The 2018 IATF event

The level of intra-Africa trade is still low compared with the other continents in the world

| THE INDEPENDENT | Rwanda has withdrawn from hosting the second Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021) citing logistical constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic that has adversely affected the progress of construction of a new facility to host the event.

The Trade Fair has now been rescheduled to take place in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa from Nov. 15 – 21, 2021.  The event was previously due to be held in Kigali, Rwanda from Dec. 8- 14, 2021.

The decision to move the Trade Fair to Durban was made by the Advisory Council of IATF2021 at its 10th meeting held virtually May.25.

Rwanda has recently experience a surge in COVID-19 cases, prompting government to institute new measures including closure of schools and higher learning institutions, limiting inter-town travels,  and countrywide extension of curfew hours for one hour, starting from 6 p.m. local time to 4 a.m. to curb its spread.

The IATF2021 is intended to provide a platform that will allow trade under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and serve as a marketplace bringing together continental and global buyers and sellers. The event will also enable stakeholders to share trade, investment and market information as well as trade finance and trade facilitation solutions designed to support intra-African trade and African economic integration.

Commenting on the decision, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, IATF2021 Advisory Council Chairman and former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, commended Rwanda, Afreximbank, the African Union, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat and all IATF stakeholders for showing great resilience in adapting to the uncertain environment arising from the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

“We have once again been able to shoulder the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is affecting all sectors worldwide and forcing governments, corporates and individuals to take unprecedented measures to ensure public safety and keep economies running,” Obasanjo said.

“Relocating IATF2021 to Durban saves us time on the calendar and will enable African countries and corporates, as part of their recovery strategy, to take full advantage of the Trade Fair, which is also an important component of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement under which trading commenced this year.

“Having undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the measures that are being taken by the AU and Afreximbank under the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) as well as other initiatives to procure vaccines for the continent, we believe that a significant number of people would have been vaccinated by November and this will allow us to have a successful event. We will continue working with the Government of South Africa to ensure that all the COVID-19 measures are complied with during the Trade Fair as the safety of both residents and visitors is paramount.

“We congratulate the Government of the Republic of South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government and thank them for the swift efforts that are being made to ensure that IATF2021 safely accommodates the growing number of participating governments, exhibitors, buyers, conference delegates, and visitors that have confirmed their participation in the event,”  Obasanjo added.

Welcoming the conference, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala said: “As KwaZulu-Natal, we are honoured to host this important gathering of the world as we implement our own Economic Reconstruction, Recovery and Transformation Plan. Our approach is to carefully balance the protection of lives against promoting and sustaining livelihoods.

“Based on plans announced by our President Cyril Ramaphosa on rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination programme in South Africa, we will be ready in November to host our brothers and sisters in Durban for this Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021),” Zikalala said.

“We look forward to welcoming the delegates to the Trade Fair. This gathering is one of the most significant strategic interventions to remind us of our interconnectedness, and of the urgent need to promote intra-Africa trade to reignite economic opportunities and create much-needed jobs for all our people. In this regard we applaud the IATF2021 Advisory Council under the leadership of former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for this bold decision as we soldier forward to a better Africa for all.”

Latest available statistics indicates that intra-Africa trade for 2019 was valued at US$69 billion; 5 per cent less than in 2018 (with data from 35 of the 55 African countries).

The level of intra-Africa trade accounted for just 15 per cent of Africa’s total trade in 2019; the same as for 2018.

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