By Devika Jyothi
As protectionist rhetoric revives around the world, the emerging economies of Asia and Africa are envisioning a world without borders. Policymakers in India and Africa recognise that working together to improve the productive and export capacities of partner countries and encouraging inclusive business practices is the only way forward for sustainable economic growth.
To further explore possibilities for expanding Indo-Africa trade, SITA facilitated the participation of 20 business leaders and trade experts from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and India at the World Export Development Forum 2018 (WEDF 2018) held in Lusaka, Zambia from 11th to 12th September. A flagship event of the International Trade Centre (ITC), WEDF brings together policy makers, business leaders, trade organisations and international agencies to identify and promote trade and investment opportunities regionally and globally.
WEDF2018 was hosted by ITC in partnership with the government of Zambia. More than 1,400 delegates from over 70 countries attended the two-day event, which focused on ‘Scaling Up Through Trade: Skill. Innovate.Connect’. In the words of Ms. Arancha González, Executive Director of ITC, at the opening of WEDF 2018, ‘World Export Development Forum is an arena where trade policy concerns meet business practice. It is a conversation about what is working – and what needs to be improved – to make international markets work better for MSMEs and sustainable development.’
Zambia’s Vice President Inonge Wina used the occasion to emphasise the importance of strengthening the capacities of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMES), and anchoring them to multinationals to increase exports, aid job creation, and create sustainable growth. ‘WEDF18 provides an opportunity to discuss challenges shared by other countries, share best practices and learn from one another,’ Hon. Ms. Wina said.
During the event, business leaders and policymakers from around the world discussed a range of trade-related issues, including the prospects for agribusiness, investment opportunities and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). In fact, ITC launched ‘A Business Guide to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement’ that aims to benefit Africa’s business community by providing insight into the implications of AfCFTA.
The SITA delegation had the opportunity to share their experiences and listen to discussions on the cutting edge of development. The panel discussions centred on the following topics: Jobs of Tomorrow, Through Trade; Agriculture to Agribusiness: Reducing Risks, Increasing Returns; Tearing Down Trade Borders; Going Green: Who Will Finance SMEs and Reducing Risks for Investors in Africa.
Apart from panel discussions, ITC organised business-to-business (B2B) meetings on the sidelines of WEDF. With a primary focus on agribusiness, the B2B meetings brought together industry players from farmers and manufacturers to retailers and investors with an interest in trading or investing in select agricultural products and technologies.
Ms. Eunice Mutua, CEO of Select Fresh Produce, Kenya, and a SITA supported delegate, was positive about her participation at WEDF: ‘It has been an amazing experience. I was able to connect with traders from different markets across Africa and Asia. As a result, I am pursuing some concrete business deals. More importantly, I am excited about forming long-term business partnerships. SITA is doing a great job at helping traders such as myself in accessing international markets.’
‘I enjoyed the fact that the delegates were very youthful and mostly entrepreneurs like me. The panellists were also knowledgeable and gave practical insights on agribusiness in Africa. The B2B sessions were most useful for me as I was able to explore business partnerships with chilli buyers from India,’ added Ms. Providence Mavubi, Managing Partner of Orion Light Group.
The Indian trade expert delegates also found the panel discussions engaging and helpful to their understanding of the dynamics of agribusiness in Africa.Commending SITA’s continuous commitment to connecting businesses through supporting their participation at international trade forums, Mr. Amit Goyal of KAMS Singapore said, ‘Through my participation at WEDF I have been able to expand my network of traders. I have established relationships, which I am sure, will translate into actual business for our company.’
Invigorated by our enriching experience at WEDF, we at SITA will persist in scouting for opportunities to foster relationships between Indian and East African agribusinesses.