Africa is open for business
For the first time the International Trade Centre (ITC) held its annual World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in Africa in 2014. On 15-17 September more than 1,000 delegates from across the world came to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, to discuss how trade can spur development.
The event, hosted by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), was opened by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who told the gathering that the right cultural mindset is critical to transform an economy.
"The first obstacle to overcome is the belief that we cannot do it. If we overcome this, the rest is history,’ he said. ‘To find the right trade niche requires not only hard work, but also resilience in the face of setbacks and disappointments. If the path were easy or obvious, it would have been discovered already."
A vibrant private sector is the only way to encourage jobs and growth, especially for youth and women, said ITC Executive Director Arancha González. ‘By 2030, 500 million jobs need to be created to keep up with growth in the world’s working-age population. More and better jobs will mean the difference between a demographic dividend and a social time bomb,’ she said.
Francis Gatare, chief executive officer of RDB, highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship and job creation to unlock the potential of the private sector to fuel economic growth. ‘Rwanda shares the same vision as ITC, that a vibrant private sector is the only way trade-led growth and development can be achieved,’ he said.
Also held for the first time in Africa and in parallel was the Women’s Vendor Forum and Exhibition (WVEF), and the annual Roundtable of the Global Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors. This event attracted more than 100 policymakers who put focus on how to increase women business-owners’ share of public procurement, of which currently a paltry 1% is won by women.
This coincided with the launch of ‘Empowering women through public procurement’, a guide for government on how to deal with the issue. During WVEF some 500 business-to-business meetings led to 44 letters of intent being signed worth about US$5.5 million. The agreements included a Brazilian buyer that will sell tour packages bringing tourists to Africa for coffee sampling, ecotourism, Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry), fashion and more.