Landmark Arab-African Trade Cooperation Boosts Economic Ties

Explore the pivotal agreements and collaborative efforts set to enhance Arab-African economic integration and trade, unveiled in a recent high-profile meeting.

Published July 08, 2024 - 00:07am

4 minutes read
Tunisia
Saudi Arabia
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The Arab and African regions are witnessing an unprecedented surge in trade and economic cooperation, owing to the concerted efforts and strategic initiatives unveiled during the 4th Board of Governors meeting of the Arab-Africa Trade Bridges (AATB) Program. Held in Tunis, Tunisia on July 1-2, 2024, this event marks a significant milestone in fostering greater regional integration and economic collaboration between the two regions.

The event, which was conducted alongside the Tunisia Africa Business Meeting (TABM), brought together key officials, business leaders, and stakeholders from various institutions. Hani Sonbol, the CEO of the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), a part of the Islamic Development Bank Group, emphasized the transformational potential of the AATB Program. He highlighted that this initiative is designed to drive trade and investment, strengthen existing partnerships, and unlock new economic opportunities.

During the high-level sessions, attention was given to identifying key sectors for investment, addressing trade barriers, and leveraging regional strengths to bolster economic growth. Agriculture, food security, infrastructure, and technology emerged as focal sectors, underscoring the necessity of targeted investments in these areas to ensure sustained economic development. The ITFC disclosed that it has allocated a substantial portion of its $3.8 billion funding in 2023 to enhance the energy sectors of its member countries, further demonstrating its commitment to economic integration and growth.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank and Chairman of the AATB Executive Committee, underscored the evolving nature of Arab-African economic relations. He articulated that the AATB Program is pivotal in expanding trade and investment ties, leveraging innovative mechanisms such as trade finance, export credit insurance, and infrastructure development. This expansion is particularly consequential in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which integrates a market of 1.3 billion people.

One of the key outcomes of the meeting was the signing of several landmark agreements. These include the renewal of Egypt's membership in the AATB Program, signifying Egypt's commitment to bolstering its exports and supporting diverse economic sectors. Furthermore, the agreement to support the Common African Agro-Parks (CAAPs) Program aims at enhancing agricultural productivity and sustainability in Africa. This initiative, backed by ITFC, Afreximbank, and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), focuses on creating agro-industrial parks to drive innovation and economic development.

The discussions also featured a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) between the Tunisian Agency for Technical Cooperation and ITFC. This MoC aims to develop technical capacities and facilitate skill development in ITFC member countries. It outlines cooperative projects, technical assistance missions, and training programs that are essential for building robust economic frameworks in these nations.

Tunisian Minister of Economy and Planning, Feryel Ouerghi Sebai, highlighted the strategic importance of the AATB Program. She stressed the critical role of this program in consolidating economic relations between Arab and African nations, leveraging the rich resources and capabilities inherent in these regions. Mrs. Sebai's remarks resonated with the broader goals of the IsBD Group, which aims to drive economic growth and development across its member countries.

A notable highlight was the establishment of a US$1.5 billion Food Security Programme by the AATB. This initiative addresses the pressing food security challenges in the Arab and African regions, aiming to enhance agricultural productivity and establish sustainable food systems. The program aims to improve the livelihoods of communities, ensuring that food security remains a top priority for participating nations.

Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, in his address, called for sustained support and resources to enable the AATB Program to function effectively. He advocated for the transformation of the program into a regional institution, emphasizing the need for robust mechanisms to support cultural and economic ties that have historically been strong between the African and Arab regions.

In summary, the 4th Board of Governors meeting of the AATB Program has catalyzed a new era of economic cooperation between Arab and African nations. The agreements and initiatives announced are poised to unlock significant economic potential, fostering long-term prosperity and development. As the program continues to evolve, its focus on trade, investment, and sustainable development will be pivotal in shaping the economic landscape of both regions.

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