On Thursday, 20 July, in Washington D.C., the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Benedict Oramah, engaged the African press to spotlight the bank’s 30th anniversary, highlighting that “its history dates back to 1987.”
He said that Afreximbank’s 1993 creation was aimed at an “African solution” to a debt crisis and lines of credit problem that existed. The Cairo-based Afreximbank is for “all Africans wherever they may be,” Mr Oramah said in his remarks in the US capital. Assets have grown to $31.1 billion over seven years through December 2022, the pan-African bank reports.
“When we joined the bank, the capital the bank had invested [was] about $45 million,” Mr Oramah said adding that, “Today, we have a bank that has total assets and guarantees of more than $32 billion. We have capital equity of about $10 billion.”
However, the Nigerian agriculturalist and economist, said he is paying attention to recent developments regarding the Black Sea Grain Initiative that allows shipment of food and fertilizer from war-ravaged Ukraine. He said African countries need a deal for timely fertilizer supplies which should reach them in time for planting season. He also made mention of “active engagements with the US Export-Import Bank (EXIM),” whose progress he seemed pleased with.
The Afreximbank’s Executive Vice President of Intra African Trade Bank, Kanayo Awani – also speaking at the Washington roundtable event – said the bank recognizes the immense “human talent in the diaspora,” and hopes to understand the characteristics of the diaspora, not just in America, but also around the world.”
For comment on a few highlights that the Biden-Harris administration is taking to support foreign investment and engagement with Afreximbank and Africa, PREMIUM TIMES reached out to the Biden-Harris administration on Friday, 21 July, for comment.
“In December 2022, President Biden hosted leaders from across the African continent for the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, D.C. At the Summit, business and government leaders committed to catalyze trade and investment deals and partnerships which will create jobs and foster shared prosperity for people across the African continent and the United States,” said a spokesperson representing the US Department of State.
“At the July 11-14, 2023, U.S.-Africa Business Summit hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa and the Government of Botswana, the U.S. delegation announced that since the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in December, the Biden-Harris Administration has helped close 75 new deals between the United States and African countries for a total estimated value of $5.7 billion in two-way trade and investment. Since 2021, the U.S. Government has helped close more than 900 deals across 47 African countries for a total estimated value of $22 billion in two-way trade and investment. As the Administration’s flagship infrastructure initiative, the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) is helping to advance and scale several of these public and private investments across the continent. Additional details on progress towards trade and investment deals can be found in the White House factsheet.”
Millions of Africans were born in, worked in, and grew up in an era of colonialism. Others worked in a post-World War II world-trade order after tariffs and trade agreements had been negotiated at the creation of a multilateral trading system; with today’s incarnation of the institution being the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“Africans didn’t participate in the discussion,” Mr Oramah said, “We were not there.”
Today—in post-colonial Africa—states would like to make gains against still-existing headwinds. The WTO, founded from negotiations, and whose present-day work, emerged from negotiations in the 1986-1994 Uruguay Round and earlier General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) years, is where reforms, accompanied by positive rhetoric on, and about Africa, are needed, say some critics.
“On WTO, [Biden’s] National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that ‘the Biden administration is still committed to the WTO and the shared values upon which it is built: fair competition, openness, transparency, [and] the rule of law. But serious challenges, most notably non-market economic practices and policies, threaten those core values. So that’s why we’re working with so many other WTO members to reform the multilateral trading system so that it benefits workers, accommodates legitimate national security interests, and confronts pressing issues that aren’t fully embedded in the current WTO framework, like sustainable development and the clean energy transition,’” a spokesperson at the State Department familiar with the Biden administration’s approach told PREMIUM TIMES.
The US legal framework has Section 110 of the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, which says the “President shall submit a report to Congress on the trade and investment relationship between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries no later than one year after the enactment of the Act, and biennially thereafter.” This responsibility for this task falls on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) under White House Executive Order 13720 of February 26, 2016. In the USTR 2022 Biennial Report on the Implementation of African Growth and Opportunity Act, the report states that the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) “continues to foster strong ties with financial institutions across the continent, including the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).”
Previously, on 12 July, Scott Nathan, CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), from the US-Africa Business Summit, said the US has “a hundred million dollars of investments and we have a billion dollars of deals in our pipeline that we are very confident are soon to get through our process and will be announced in the coming weeks and months.”
On the Board of Directors of Afreximbank are Egypt, Nigeria, and Zambia, who hold Class A shares, Mr Oramah said in his remarks. He said the bank has launched an Intra-African Trade Fair and is expanding to include Caribbean countries.
The Afreximbank, in conjunction with the African Union, and AfCFTA, will host the 3rd Intra-Africa Trade Fair (IATF 2023), which will be hosted by Egypt, in Cairo, 9-15 November. And, why Cairo? Because it is the only African country with the “capacity to host,” explained Mr Oramah.
The event will “need 40,000 square meters of space.” The last event had 32,000 visitors, the bank’s President said.
PREMIUM TIMES also reached out to the government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom, for comment. However, they were unable to offer further comment prior to going to publication.
Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based White House Correspondent, and media commentator with expertise on U.S. foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe
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