ITC Executive Director closing speech at the World Export Development Forum

22 November 2019
ITC News
Speech delivered by ITC Executive Director Arancha González at closing session of the World Export Development Forum 2019 in Addis Ababa

Ladies and gentlemen, there we have it. What a great week we’ve had in Ethiopia!

I have just come from a meeting with Her Excellency Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia. I passed on my thanks to her and her Government, especially the Ministry of Trade and Industry for its active support to this year's World Export Development Forum.

Dominating our discussions this week was the AfCFTA . The focus was on implementing the AfCFTA and ensuring an inclusive approach incorporating the voices of women, youth and SMEs.

Among the 1000 people who came this week hundreds of connections were made. Because that’s what WEDF and the future of trade in Africa is all about: connecting, sharing, learning.

They tell me that Addis Ababa means “New Flower” and we’ve seen the blossoming of many new flowers this week.

Shetrades brought together women in business from all around the continent to ensure the AfCFTS includes their voice. We did this together with UNECA and the AU.

I want to thank Commissioner Muchanga and teams from the AU Trade and Industry for their full-hearted support this week. Without you this would not have been possible.

This week we have heard from young people.

Almost 30 young people from 12 countries took part as panellists during the Forum.

Young people were the driving force behind our Youth Media Zone, a learning space for young influencers. Dozens of young digital storytellers and entrepreneurs shared their skills. On a big wall, that I’m sure you saw, we asked: “What is the Africa you want?” They wrote:

“Economic transformation that serves African livelihoods first.”

“One that works for all people.”

And my favourite: “Leaders wake up!”

Amazing answers! Thanks YALDA for animating this space.

We have heard about the manufacturing of mobile phones in Rwanda, South Africa and soon in Nigeria.

We heard how Senegal is making digital work for entrepreneurs.

We have even heard about insects being transformed into lactose-free milk.

What does all this have in common? Value addition. Africa needs to capture value and scale up, adding jobs and stimulating growth.

At SheTrades, more than 50 Africa women’s business associations told us they wanted to be plugged into the next phase of the AfCFTA. And we lifted the voice of youth in trade and investment to the African Union with the adoption of a Declaration on Youth Empowerment. They want the AfCFTA implemented to support job creation.

At the B2B sessions in this room, we saw nearly 300 companies from 30 countries conduct bilateral meetings, with a large presence of Indian companies.

Altogether companies reported striking deals and leads ranging from $6 million to $20 million – right here in this room!! We hope as many as possible will materialize soon.

We also hosted an investment roundtable with the Ethiopian Investment Commission and ITC’s Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa project (PIGA), with China and UK, focused on textiles. More than 100 international buyers, potential Chinese investors and representatives of Ethiopian institutions came, and the meeting was followed by field visits .

The event enabled progress on three investment projects in the textile sector worth approximately $100 million, and with the potential to create 10,000 jobs, mostly for young women. We look forward to materializing them.

Our Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) project with UK and India helped conclude deals amounting to around $200,000 and the potential investment pipeline is worth around $5 million.

That’s worth a round of applause!

There are three takeaways I’d like you to think about after this week’s deliberations:

· Value addition. In manufacturing, agriculture and services. It’s the way we can make MSMEs, women, youth and the “base of the pyramid” benefit from open trade in Africa

· Partnerships. In Ethiopia they say “many spiders’ cobwebs can trap a lion”. We need to work together.

· Innovation. We need to use this opportunity to find new ways of doing old things.

We couldn’t have organized WEDF without the engagement of our partners, participants, speakers and partners.

I would like to pass on my warmest gratitude to CGTN Africa; the Enhanced Integrated Framework; Ethiopian Airlines; the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectorial Associations; the European Union; Germany and the US – without whom none of this would have been possible.

We had the great pleasure to attend two receptions held in our honour this week, and thanks to the musicians- the Ethiopian band and MAISHA- who entertained us and the cooks who fed us. I’d also like to thank our event partner Flawless, video and audio technicians, interpreters and translators, security staff and drivers, and my loyal and dedicated staff at ITC. You have done us proud!

I’d also like to extend my greetings to the two-dozen journalists from Africa who came to learn about the future of open trade on the continent. The AfCFTA won’t work well without buy-in from the widest possible public. The media’s role in getting the message out cannot be undervalued.

Finally, before I reveal the winner of the pitch contest, I’d like to announce the location of our next World Export Development Forum to be held in August 2020 – it’s Mongolia! See you in Ulaanbaatar!

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

… but the before the big moment, I wanted to say that you may be thinking “Pitching Contest? what’s that about? – It’s just a show!”

Let me tell you. For millions of enterprising young minds in Africa, seeing their peers succeed isn’t a trivial matter. It is in fact vital to battle against hopelessness and despair. Young people will inherit the opportunities being built by the AfCFTA. At ITC we know the value of celebrating role models. And let’s not forget that the winner gets $5,000 and one to one coaching and legal services to take their business to the next level.

Yesterday we heard from six incredible young entrepreneurs. They came from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Guinea and South Africa. The finalists were selected by the International Trade Centre in collaboration with partners including Impact Hub Geneva’s Accelerate2030 programme, IceAddis, and the Pierre Castel Foundation.

All the entrepreneurs had a technical background. All understood the social dimension. All are already winners.

They were assessed by a panel of excellent and “tough” judges who I thank for their time and dedication:

Every year I repeat myself, but this year again it was hard to choose one for the prize. All have won valuable exposure already - past contests have shown this - but we can only have one winner.

The winner is a company that impressed the judges with its commitment to sustainability, which provides jobs to more than 1,000 people – 80% of them women – and is moved by a social and environmental mission. They are currently developing a system to commercialize maggots to produce compost. They work in a village in South Africa…

…they are: Siyabuddy!

Congratulations to Siyabonga Buddy Tshabalala from South Africa!

Give him a big round of applause.

And with that, I wish you a safe journey home and look forward to seeing you in Mongolia.