The Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan has reiterated that Ecobank remains the gateway financial institution for African regional trade.
Akinwuntan who was speaking at the Ecobank Digital Series virtual Africa Trade Conference 2020 titled: ‘Facilitating Regional Trade in the emerging AfCFTA Era’ maintained that Ecobank, the pan – African bank was set up to be the leader in intra-Africa trade, adding that leveraging on its knowledge, footprint and digital payment platforms, the bank is set to lead the financial services support for the new Africa Continental Free Trade Area.
According to him, “while Intra Africa trade provides an opportunity for the growth of our economy in Africa, Ecobank is ‘the go-to bank’ for Africa regional trade”. He stressed that the Ecobank Regional Trade conference was designed to “primarily explore the massive trade opportunity before us in Africa, particularly after the pandemic. Ecobank decided to set the agenda for Africa to takes its place in global trade. The opportunity is massive: with market size of 1.2 billion, estimated GDP of $2.5 billion, Africa free trade area is the largest since the formation World Trade Organization (WTO); more than 65 member state across the African union, population to reach 2.5 billion by 2050”.
Also speaking, Segun Awolowo, Executive Director/ Chief Executive, Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), said with a market of 1.2 billion people and combined GDP of $3 trillion, there is huge potential for Nigeria to increase its export to Africa. According to him, most of the exports had been informal exports but with platforms, like Ecobank, it is going to be official and add real value to the economy. He said in 2018, the export value of Nigeria to Africa totalled around $6.99 billion but its export to the rest of the world totalled $45.92 billion. However, Nigeria export is majorly crude oil and natural gas which constitute 91%.
Speaking on “International trade, the pan African perspective”, Tei Konzi, Commissioner, Trade, customs and free movement, ECOWAS, represented by Kolawale Sofola, Acting Director, Trade ECOWAS said 85 % of our products go outside the continent and this must be changed. “We can bring these trade back to Africa and increase activity in the continent in agriculture, mining amongst others. We are yet to conclude our tariffs, but at the moment, ECOWAS trade more with outside countries than it does with African countries and this is why we are bent on making sure the AfCFTA succeeds”.
He noted that the AfCFTA is a comprehensive trade agreement that seeks to create a single market for goods and services and free movement of persons through the progressive liberation of the market for goods and services and also contribute to the movement of capital to facilitate investment. He said it is meant to be the foundation of continental customs union at a later stage.
The Ecobank Nigeria ‘Africa Trade Conference 2020’ which is part of the Ecobank Digital Series is to showcase Ecobank’s unique intra-Africa trade solutions that enable settlements of international transactions and mitigation of payment risk while providing regional solutions to exporters. Ecobank trade products and solutions are designed around two broad areas; trade finance and trade services. Trade Finance enables customers to benefit from adequate and well-mitigated credit facilitation in the area of Import finance, export finance, bill discounting, trade loans, distributor finance, payables and receivables finance, structured trade and commodity finance amongst others while trade services, offer our customers the advantage of speedy turnaround and error-free processing of their import letter of credits, import collections, civilised bills, Customs bonds, export collections as well as their local purchase orders and payment invoices, via our electronic trade platforms OMNI e-Trade and OMNI eFSC (electronic financial supply chain.