Remarks At Nigeria’s Day At The Intra-African Trade Fair In Egypt

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Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s post- Independence Prime Minister in 1963, on the occasion of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) said:

“I think we will arrive at a very successful establishment of the African Common Market, because I think it is good for African trade. For example, the inter-State trade in Africa is 10%, while 90% is done with countries outside Africa. There is no reason why we should not increase the inter-State trade on this continent.”

 Tafawa Balewa spoke the minds of many African leaders then and now. This is why this first Intra-African trade Fair is an extra special event for us. It is the beginning of the coming to pass of one of Africa’s favorite dreams – increasing Intra-African trade, trade between and among ourselves in pragmatic and sustainable ways.

And for enabling us to live our dreams and the hopes and aspirations of our founding fathers, we must commend and thank the African Union, and the AFREXIM Bank for organizing, and the Government and people of Egypt for hosting this trade fair and the excellent facilities that have been placed at our disposal.

Therefore, it is with great pride that we celebrate the dreams of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and all of the fathers of our continent as we take part in the first ever Intra-African Trade Fair.

Nigeria places a high premium on the economic integration of the Continent and we recognize trade also as a veritable tool ‘towards the Africa we all want’ – an industrialized, prosperous and peaceful Africa where we generate enough opportunities to accommodate the growing numbers of our peoples.

The numbers entering the job market yearly in Africa is daunting and it is clear that increased Intra-Africa trade is one of the surest ways of creating the jobs that are so desperately needed.

Therefore, this intra-African trade fair, bringing together the business communities including, innovators and creators both in the merchandise and services industry from the 55 African Union Members and beyond is a remarkable achievement in and of itself.

In order to increase trade, we in Nigeria tasked ourselves to diversify our export basket. This became one of our many policy priorities. Based on this focus we modified and updated existing economic policies and also developed robust policies to facilitate the diversification of our economy.

Today, we have come to the Intra-African trade fair with a delegation of policymakers and services market operators who have an array of goods and services that are as rich and diverse as the people of our great nation.

In the 2nd quarter report of our Bureau of Statistics, services contributed approximately 54% to the GDP with Information and Communication as the main drivers of growth.

Clearly, one of the most remarkable developments in Nigeria’s economic story is the phenomenal growth and depth of technology and innovation. With hundreds of new companies jostling for primacy in this fast-growing digital economy space, it is estimated that the digital economy in Nigeria would be worth $88 billion dollars and add about 3 million jobs by 2021.

So today, we have come with some of our best digital entrepreneurs, to exhibit their products, start conversations around cooperation and partnerships that would jumpstart the continental economy and create the Facebooks, Googles and Amazons of our continent.

We are going to have panel discussions to hear from the operators in Nigeria regarding policy initiatives and how the protection of intellectual property can help Africa secure its place in the digital age.

But perhaps as exciting is the phenomenal story of Nigeria’s entertainment industry (Nollywood), now considered to be the third largest film industry in the world. The Africa wide popularity of ‘Nollywood’ poignantly demonstrates that our stories are the same, our hopes and aspirations identical, and so are our sense of fairness and justice. And also is our common attachment to the uplifting notions of love, affection, kindness and the victory of good over evil. So, Nollywood is here with us in Cairo and I hope you will get to meet some of our best.

And the cuisine – Nigeria’s cuisine, especially ‘jollof’ rice and ‘egusi’ soup. These as you know are already winners in the continent. – Loved immediately by those whose palates encounter it for the first time. We have even gotten into controversies about our assertion that Nigeria’s ‘jollof rice is the best’.

So, we have brought with us some of our chefs to enable guests here today have a firsthand experience. This evening, you would be treated to a live show and you will have the unique opportunity of savoring Nigerian dishes.

But we couldn’t possibly be here without our world conquering fashion industry. All over the world the unique touches of Nigerian fashion are redefining industry. The Nigerian fashion industry features internationally recognized Nigerian labels and is a sure take away by most who visit Nigeria.

The phenomenal sell out of the Nigerian football jersey designed by Nike is good evidence of the global acceptance and delight in Nigerian fashion.

There is also an opportunity for engagement today. I have not focused much on merchandise trade, mainly because its place is already loudly evident. But here today we have about 10 exhibitors showcasing different products, ranging from cars and armoured trucks to leather, clothing, food, soap and beauty products.

 Well, well, what an event this promises to be. I welcome you all home to the Nigeria day

Thank you all.