Afreximbank, the African Export-Import Bank, is championing the development of Export Trading Companies (ETCs) in both public and private sectors across Africa. This initiative aims to empower Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on the continent to actively engage in global trade.
Kanayo Awani, the Executive Vice President of Intra-African Trade Bank at Afreximbank, conveyed this message on behalf of the bank’s President, Prof. Benedict Oramah, during the Africa International Exhibition in New York, aligned with the United Nations General Assembly.
Awani highlighted the fierce competition SMEs face when directly participating in global trade, particularly against large multinational corporations. Drawing a lesson from Asia, she emphasized the pivotal role of ETCs as intermediaries that enable SMEs to access global markets. These entities aggregate trade, creating a substantial volume that withstands competition and attracts greater value.
Awani stressed that the limited involvement of African SMEs in global value chains stems from institutional policy shortcomings. She called for robust policy frameworks that offer capacity-building, safeguards against unfair competition, improved access to regional markets, and enhanced financial accessibility. These systems are especially crucial as Africa embarks on implementing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Afreximbank has prioritized SMEs through its dedicated export development strategy. This strategy encompasses tailored financial instruments, including factoring, supply chain finance, and intermediated financing, designed to address the funding constraints faced by African SMEs.
Additionally, Afreximbank unveiled the $1-billion Creative Africa Nexus (CANEX) program, providing vital support, including finance, digital solutions, and capacity building, to the thriving African creative industry. This sector has emerged as a rapid growth area, with creatives in Nigeria, South Africa, and other nations now major contributors to export earnings. Afreximbank has already disbursed approximately $120 million to bolster this industry.
The bank is actively supporting market access for African SMEs through the African Trade Gateway, a digital ecosystem designed to tackle non-tariff barriers. The MANSA customer due diligence repository platform, a part of this ecosystem, has already onboarded over 11,000 entities, streamlining the process for SMEs and corporates.
Awani also emphasized that the Intra-African Trade Fair serves as a valuable platform for integrating SMEs into continental value chains by fostering connections and networking. The third edition of the fair is scheduled to take place in Cairo in November.
Notable speakers at the event included Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, represented by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, CEO of First Bank Group Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, and Ireti Kingibe of the Nigerian National Assembly. This collective effort underscores the commitment to empowering African SMEs for sustainable growth and global competitiveness.