How To Boost African SMEs Participation In Global Trade, By Afreximbank

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), on Monday urged African countries to prioritise the development of public and private export trading companies (ETCs) to better enhance participation of the continent’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in global trade.
In an address to the Africa International Exhibition, which opened Sunday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, President of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah, noted SMEs participating directly in global trade faced stiff competition from multinational and significantly large corporates, making their chances of success or survival marginal, if not zero
Oramah, who spoke through Kanayo Awani, the bank’s Executive Vice President, Intra-African Trade Bank, noted that Asia had addressed that challenge by establishing ETCs to act as conduits through which SMEs accessed global markets.
She explained that ETCs acted as aggregators and created a sizeable volume of trade that attracted greater value and withstood competition, lamenting that the limited participation of Africa’s SMEs in the global value chains reflected institutional policy failure.
Awani also called for strong policy support systems that would provide capacity developments, incipient protections from unfair competition and improved access to regional markets and access to finance.
These, she continued, “are particularly urgent as Africa commences implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).”
Over the years, she continued, SMEs had been a central focus of Afreximbank’s continental interventions through its export development SME-focused strategy, with unique funding instruments to bridge the financing constraints faced by African SMEs, including products, such as factoring, supply chain finance and intermediated financing.
Mrs. Awani said that Afreximbank was the principal promoter of factoring in Africa and that the factoring law it sponsored had been adopted in the Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire and was under consideration by regulatory institutions in several other African countries.
The bank is also enabling market access for African SMEs through the African Trade Gateway, a digital ecosystem which comprises assets designed to address non-tariff barriers, such as the MANSA customer due diligence repository platform which collects KYC information of SMEs and corporates and which had already onboarded more than 11,000 entities, she said.
Other Afreximbank interventions, she listed, included the TRADAR Club, which delivers innovative digital tools and networking opportunities, helping SMEs to pursue scale and scope economies, the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System, which is an important mechanism for deepening the participation of SMEs in regional trade by allowing them to make payments for imports from the continent using national currencies, the creation of the Fund for Export Development in Africa, which provides venture capital to nurture startups, early-stage and emerging SMEs, and a number of other flagship initiatives.
The Bank’s Intra-African Trade Fair also provided an excellent platform to foster integration of SMEs into continental value chains by promoting interconnections and networking, she added, noting that the third edition of the fair would hold in Cairo in November.
Ms. Awani announced that Afreximbank had launched a US$1-billion Creative Africa Nexus (CANEX) programme to provide access to finance, capacity building, digital solutions and other support to the African creative industry, noting that the industry had become one of the fastest-growing areas within the continent and that creatives had become major export earners in Nigeria, South Africa and a few other countries, topping traditional export goods. The Bank had disbursed about US$120 million to boost the industry, she added.
Other speakers at the event included President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, who was represented by Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment; Festus Keyamo, the Nigerian Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development; Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO of First Bank of Nigeria; and Senator representing the FCT, Mrs. Ireti Kingibe.