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  • Friday, 09 September 2022

Egypt-ICF Propels a Green Transition under the African Continental Free Trade Area

On the second day of the Egypt-International Cooperation Forum (Egypt-ICF) in its second edition, a workshop entitled, “Development of Regional Value Chains under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a Climate Resilience Initiative” was held to propel a green transition under the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The workshop was attended by Yahya Al-Wathiq Billah, Head of the Commercial Representation Authority at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on behalf of His Excellency Dr. Ahmed Samir Saleh, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Arab Republic of Egypt, His Excellency Alamine Ousmane Mey, Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development of the State of Cameroon, and His Excellency Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO of the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) and the Acting CEO of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), His Excellency Eng. Nasser Al-Thekair, Director General of Trade and Business Development Department at the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation, His Excellency Dr. Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist at Afrixembank, Lionel Abel, Director of Neighborhood Operations at the Investment Bank of the European Union, Sameh Shenouda, Executive Director and Director of Investments at Africa Finance Corporation, Dr. Gainmore Zanamwe, Chair of the African Environmental Trade Initiative at AfrixEmbank, and Themba Kumalo, Principal Adviser for Industrial Development at the AfCFTA Secretariat.

Highlighting Africa’s opportunity to contribute to the reduction of global carbon emissions through the development of regional value chains in the continent, Gainmore Zanamwe, Senior Manager of the Intra-Trade Initiative at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) noted that localizing industries can bring about transformative opportunities in reducing the number of quantities that are shipped abroad, reducing transportation costs and carbon emissions.

"We want Europe and Asia to help us localize industries on the continent for the benefit of all,” he stated. 

During his speech, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO of the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation, underscored that the Corporation is strengthening its regional projects through the Arab-African Trade Bridges Program and through the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement in order to define financing targets and climate-smart interventions in the continent of Africa.

He added that the Corporation is working strenuously with its partners to foster fruitful conversations on regional integration initiatives to develop regional value chains and adapt to climate change in order to build climate-smart strategies that contribute to  development of the African continent.

He stated that the African continent faces two challenges in adapting to climate change. The first is the need to rethink the development approach in line with the current reality, as it is still highly dependent on foreign markets. The second is the huge amounts of funds required to adapt to climate change, which is why regional integration must be emphasized through the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is the largest free trade area in terms of the number of participating countries and which can provide the necessary capacity to attract investments to Africa in higher value-added production and generate growth driven by innovation and entrepreneurship.

For his part, Director of Research and International Cooperation at African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Hippolyte Fofack, said that the bank has been working closely with the African Development Bank and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) for nearly 9 years to support and promote development in Africa and address climate change. 

He pointed out the importance of reducing emissions in global trade, as about 655 million tons of emissions come from the United States, adding that more effort needs to be done to restructure global trade and put an end to shipping raw materials from Africa.

Fofack added that Africa is now entering a historic era of industrialization and that there is an opportunity to transform Africa into a “green factory” for the world. 

To realize this ambition, Senior Fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program and the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, Landry Signé, said that $60 trillion can be generated if Africa becomes a free trade area. 

He emphasized the importance of removing barriers in regards to trade between African countries, which would facilitate trade and improve service delivery.

In the same vein, Lionel Rabail, Director of Neighboring Countries Operations at the European Investment Bank (EIB), highlighted that Africa is rich with opportunities, and that the European Investment Bank seeks to provide long-term financing for African countries in green projects, including Egypt.

Dr. Hermogene Nsengimana, Secretary-General of the African Organization for Standardization, noted that the COP27 conference comes at an opportune time to explore a "Made in Africa" initiative to promote Africa’s export goods.  

For his part, Yahya Al-Wathiq Billah, head of the Egyptian Commercial Service, stressed that it is necessary to find unconventional solutions to the challenges, capitalizing on regional integration in a way that contributes to accelerating the pace of economic recovery in the African continent.

This year’s Egypt-ICF and the Meeting of African Ministers of Economy, Finance and Environment, will provide a platform for governments, multilateral and bilateral development partners, philanthropic foundations, private sector, think tanks, and civil society to consider the challenges the continent is offset by and explore avenues to overcome them. 

The Forum’s overall objectives include: mobilization of, and access to finance, to mobilize financing and catalyze private sector investments, focused on developing countries and Africa; financing climate action, adaptation and mitigation to leverage the necessary public and private support to accelerate climate action; and providing a timely platform to explore needed national actions that would help progress towards a just and green transition.