Dubai, UAE: Sessions on the second day of the Global Business Forum Africa 2019 in Dubai put the spotlight on the potential impact of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on trade and investment in Africa, and the important role of entrepreneurs in driving the continent's growth and development.

During a one-on-one session, Fadi Ghandour, Executive Chairman, Wamda spoke to Peter Njonjo, Co-Founder and CEO of Kenya-based Twiga Foods. Sharing his entrepreneurial journey and success story, Njonjo revealed how he identified a market need to improve agribusiness value chains as consumers in the country were overspending on food, while farmers found themselves dealing with too many retailers. His B2B platform, connecting farmers directly with retailers, found a way to lower costs and enhance food quality.

When asked what made him leave the comfort of a multinational company to venture into the world of entrepreneurship, Njonjo replied: It got to a point where there were a good number of investors who were supportive and it aligned with my purpose. Trial and error is at the core of entrepreneurship and one of the things I have learnt is that it's okay to fail. but don't fail at the same thing twice, he added.

Following the conversation, a session entitled Creating One Africa Eliminating Barriers to Business saw industry experts assessed the impact of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) on trade, investment and ease of doing business in Africa.

Commenting on the AfCFTA and Africa's shift towards regional integration, H.E. Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary General, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Switzerland, said: We are starting to see African countries remove visas. Previously, Africans did not facilitate Africans travelling but this unlocks services potential. Now, 21 countries have e-Visas and visas on arrival, like the UAE. The rest of the world is building walls; Africa is building bridges.

Stephen Karingi, Director, Regional Integration and Trade Division, UN Economic Commission for Africa, Ethiopia, said that Rwandan President has driven the reform committee of the African Union during his tenure as chair of the organisation. When taking over as chair of the African Union in January, South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa should drive the services agenda, as this area offers a lot of potential for African economies, Karingi explained.

Admassu Tadesse, President and Chief Executive Officer, Trade and Development Bank said that for Africa, the last decade has been unprecedented in terms of growth. He explained that the continent is seeing more cross-border investment than ever before.

Lastly, Nadya Abdulla Kamali, CEO, Dubai Customs World said Africa can play an important role in Dubai's Silk Road Strategy and benefit from changing dynamics in global trade.

The whole world is looking at Africa for trade opportunities. That's why Dubai embarked on new initiative in 2019 the Dubai Silk Road Strategy. The government's approach to looking at Africa is how to unlock potential. The infrastructure is there, the trade treaties are there these aren't the challenges any more. The challenges are the lack of soft skills and capabilities, she said.

You can have best port, the best airport and the best train station, but the trade facilitation is not there. If we want hubs in Africa to be recognised as trade hubs, we need to sell those hubs as functioning properly. You need to able to reach your destination without being interrupted, in terms of customs, in terms of clearance. it's not just dropping your goods. It's clearing your goods, she added.

Organised by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, GBF Africa 2019 was held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The high-level forum, taking place on November 18th-19th, brought together public and private sector stakeholders from the UAE and Africa to discuss concrete business prospects and explore new avenues of economic cooperation.

Source: Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry