African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) on Monday announced plans to make available $40 billion over the next five years to provide the much needed financing for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Eric Intong, regional chief operating officer, Anglophone West Africa Afreximbank, said this at the opening ceremony of Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC)/AFRIEXIM programme on “How to Export under AFCTA” held in Abuja.
Intong noted that the said sum which is expected to boost intra-African trade and investment financing is twice the amount of $20 disbursed in the last four years. He disclosed that Intra-African trade financing constitutes about 30 percent of the total bank’s assets.
He further explained that the ‘How to Export with AfCFTA‘ programme is aimed at increasing awareness of the opportunities brought by AfCFTA, improving export skills of exporters, tackling challenges of exporters and promoting the use of trade support services.
He informed that the programme is being piloted in three countries to include, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Rwanda.
The operating officer reiterated the commitment of the bank to the full implementation of AfCFTA, adding that it is already implementing a number of programmes and initiatives in collaboration with the African Union, AfCFTA secretariat, AfDB and other pan-African organizations.
Olusegun Awolowo, executive director/CEO, NEPC in his address described the timing of the workshop as apt due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on SMEs exporters, trade support institutions and global buyers.
The CEO, who was represented by William Ezeagu, director, product development said, “This workshop necessitates the need to develop new strategies and innovations. In this regard, the collaborative efforts with the international trade centre (ITC) and AFREXIMBANK has made this programme possible.
“The relationship is already yielding positive result as demonstrated by the number of SMEs that benefitted from the online training sessions preceding this national workshop.”
He added that the workshop will critically analyse exporters needs and challenges, export readiness, and critical issues on transport corridors, documentary requirements, logistics and compliance to rules of origin among others.
SME owners present at the workshop lamented that some of the biggest challenges they face include, access to raw materials, funding among others.
Yakubu Isah an Agropreneur into processing of agricultural products such as ‘ogbono’, ‘Egusi’,
‘Okpa’ among decried that raw materials for production are scarce and expensive due to insecurity.
He said, “Our challenges are enormous. Right now, the herders/farmers’ clashes and are affecting us. Raw materials are now expensive in the market and we find it difficult to produce.
“We decided to become farmers ourselves, but it is not enough to meet up with production for export. Raw materials and finance are the major challenges we are facing” he said.
On funding, he noted that government interventions to MSMEs are helpful but inadequate. He also said finding is needed to improve packaging to meet standards.
Also speaking, another entrepreneur, Tunde Odunuga said, “We process cashew nuts and we aim to expand export, but sourcing for raw materials is our biggest challenge; this is largely due to insecurity.
“The available material is hardly enough for local consumption.”
Obianuju Okpo, an entrepreneur into honey production siad scaling up production was key to effectively benefit from AfCFTA and expressed optimism to develop capacity at the workshop.
“Right now, our capacity is 3 tons a month, but we are looking at doing 10 tons a month for export. We need to improve on our capacity to produce raw materials to venture into AfCFTA”, she said.
The workshop also featured exhibition of made-in-Nigeria products.