Global economic stakeholders have pledged their support for Ecofairs 2024, a business initiative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to enhance the goals of Intra-African trade under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The Ecofairs is in collaboration with the Lagos state government of Nigeria.
At the Ecofairs news briefing on Friday in Lagos, Mr Amr Altantawy, Head, Economic and Commercial office, Embassy of Arab Republic of Egypt, said Ecofairs would enhance trade and investment between African countries.
He stated that African economic development was one of the top priorities of Egypt, noting that both Egypt and Nigeria have strong presence and influence in all African forums and entities.
Altantawy emphasised the need to cooperate, to fully implement AfCFTA to benefit from its advantages.
“We believe that this step will encourage trade between our countries, especially in the sector of food industries, agriculture, mining, energy, construction, infrastructure, textiles, health and medical industries, information technology and much more.
“To increase trade volume between Nigeria and Egypt, two major Egyptian companies such as Orascom and Hassan Allam for construction are looking forward to participate in the major projects in Nigeria manly in power sector and construction.
“I believe that Nigeria is a major gate for West Africa and we can work together and maximize the volume of trade and investments to achieve mutual interests and benefits to Egypt and Nigeria,” he said.
Consul General of Ghana, Ms Samantha Bukari, said efforts must be in place to make sure that the AfCFTA was well embraced by Africa and their friends worldwide.
Bukari also stated the need to further eliminate barriers to trade to allow the continent have comparative advantage worldwide.
“While the activities of Ecofairs would sell the continent, we must add value to our natural resources before we attempt to sell them out.
“Nigeria is a big economic country and the country must, with other African countries, cooperate, understand, share best practices and improve on all sectors of the economy,” she said.
Rwanda High Commissioner, Ambassador Christophe Baziuamo, said the AfCFTA stood as a testament to the collective vision of a united continent in commerce and trade.
He said that Rwanda, like many other African nations, recognised the immense potential the agreement held.
He, however, stated that unlocking AfCFTA full potential required more than just eliminating tariffs, but must address the critical issue of infrastructures.
According to him, without robust ground, air, and water transport networks, efficient logistics will remain a dream.
“We must invest in modern roads, efficient railways, and revitalised ports, stitching our Continent together in a seamless web of connectivity.
“Only then can trade thrive, delivering goods swiftly and cost-effectively across vast distances.
“In a bid to widen tourism and spur trade and investment, Rwanda has opened up her shores to the rest cf the world by waiving entry visas to visitors from all over Africa, the Commonwealth, and la Francophone Nations,” he said.
Baziuamo said beyond the removal of trade barriers and development of infrastructure, to truly unlock the AfFCTA potential, Africa must also nurture local industries to transform itself from a resource exporter to a manufacturing powerhouse.
This, he said, required a two- pronged approach: quality and consistency to nurture entrepreneurs, empower skilled workforce and invest in technology that elevates products to global standards.
He expressed Rwanda’s readiness to partner with Ecofairs with focus on key production sectors and trade opportunities in coffee and tea, dairy products, textiles , agro-processing, mining and others.
Mr Ejarkaminor Riicolins, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ecofairs, said the 2024 edition was a four in one event with activities such as sales and exhibition, Lagos by night, African excellent award and malaria eradication.
Riicolins stated that over 10,000 potential buyers of goods and services were expected at the 10-day event scheduled for Sept. 6 to Sept. 15, running during the day and at night.
He added that richness of the Nigerian and African culture would be displayed all night for the period of Ecofairs.
“In line with the aim of the AfCFTA to promote indigenous goods and services, interregional partnership entrepreneurship and business extension between Africans and friendly countries, this fair is holding.
“It would open investment opportunities to foreign investors in the region and facilitate skill and knowledge transfer from honourable invited countries of the year to a sizeable number of African young entrepreneurs.
“Ecofairs would also provide solution to communities by rendering social services such as malaria eradication programme,” he said.
Meanwhile, Comptroller Dera Nnamdi, Comptroller, Tin Can Port, Command, Nigeria Customs Service, said the service was interested in facilitating a higher level of trade between Nigeria and other African countries.
He noted that while Intra-African trade was less than 15 per cent, Ecofairs stood as an element of encouragement to enhance trade within the continent.
Nnamdi emphasised the need for better vessel communication, particularly among West African countries, to optimise trade and bilateral relations.
He pledged the support of the service to ensuring that trade by African countries shore up, saying trade is synonymous with Nigeria customs.
Also, the Inspector General of Police, I-G Kayode Egbetokun, assured participants at Ecofairs of the highest levels of security.
Egbetokun, represented by DCP Monday Agbonika, said the Nigeria Police Force would be on ground to prevent crime.
He said that the event would boost trade, create employment, reduce poverty and drive investment.