By Folasade Akpan
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says that the second Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021) has been rescheduled to take place in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa from Nov. 15 to Nov. 21.
He said this in a statement issued on Monday by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
Obasanjo, who is the Advisory Council Chairman of IATF2021, said that the decision to move the trade fair to Durban was made by the Advisory Council of IATF2021 at its 10th meeting held virtually on May 25.
The fair, organised by Afreximbank in collaboration with the African Union (AU) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat was formerly scheduled to hold in Kigali, Rwanda from Dec. 8 to Dec. 14.
Obasanjo added that relocating IATF2021 to Durban would save time on the calendar.
“This decision was arrived at after formal consultations with the Government of Rwanda, who indicated that logistical constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic had adversely affected the progress of construction of a new facility to host the event.
“It would also 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 AfCTA under which trading commenced this year.
“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.”
According to him, the council has 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.
He added that it was believed that a significant number of people would have been vaccinated by November and this would allow it have a successful event.
Obasanjo assured participants that the council would continue to work with the Government of South Africa to ensure that all the COVID-19 measures were complied with during the trade fair as the safety of both residents and visitors was paramount.
He commended the Government of Rwanda, Afreximbank, the AU, the AfCFTA Secretariat and all IATF stakeholders for showing great resilience in adapting to the uncertain environment arising from the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
He also congratulated the Government of the Republic of South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government.
Obasanjo thanked them for the swift efforts 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.
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, said the province was honoured to host the gathering as it implements its own Economic Reconstruction, Recovery and Transformation Plan.
He said the province’s approach was 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).
“We look forward to welcoming the delegates to the Trade Fair as this gathering is one of the most significant strategic interventions to remind us of our interconnectedness and the urgent need to promote intra-Africa trade to reignite economic opportunities and create much-needed jobs for all our people.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the IATF2021 provides a platform to promote trade under the AfCFTA.
It will bring together continental and global buyers and sellers, and will 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 the economic integration of the continent. (NAN)