By Obinna Chima
TheÂ Minister of Trade and Industry of Egypt,Â Tariq QabeelÂ has said that the recently signedÂ African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)Â agreement will raise the volume of trade among nations in the continent by 52per cent.
HeÂ described the signing of the AfCFTA agreement as a major step towards regional integration and adding, it was alsoÂ expectedÂ toÂ lead to the elimination of 90 per cent of tariffs by 2022.
Â Qabeel said this during a conference hosted by theÂ African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank)Â in Cairo, to announce arrangements for the inaugural Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2018) to be held in the city from 11 to 17 December.
Hosted by Egypt, through the Export Development Authority (EDA), and organised in collaboration with the African Union and several other partners, the IATF is aimed at deepening trade ties among African countries and at supporting the implementation of theÂ AfCFTA.
The conference, according to a statement,Â featured a panel discussion entitled “Towards a Strategy for Deepening Trade Between Egypt and Africa”, with participation by former President of Nigeria and Chairman of the IATF2018 Advisory Council,Â Chief Olusegun Obasanjo;Â Qabeel; thePresident of Afreximbank,Â Dr. Benedict Oramah; and theÂ Chairman of the Elsewedy Group, who represented the private sector,Â Ahmed el-Sewedy,
Obasanjo highlighted the different capabilities and resources of African countries and said larger economies, like Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa, had important roles in leading the transformation of the continent.
Â Their participation in the AfCFTA would contribute to the success of the agreement, he said, but noted that â€œthe train has left the stationâ€ and those countries that were yet to sign on to the agreement would have to catch up.
Â Oramah saidÂ the IATF was being organised as part of initiatives by Afreximbank to address the challenge of the low volume of intra-African trade, which he attributed largely to lack of market information on the continent.
Â He said many African businesses were not aware that some of the products they were importing from outside the continent could be purchased for less from neighbouring countries.