The Third edition of The Africa Regional Journal (TARJ) Forum and trade fair opened in the Rwandan political capital Kigali on 26th November 2021.
The theme for the awards was ‘Promoting Free Movement of persons, goods and services across Africa with the theme for the forum being ‘The African Free Continental Area, a great opportunity for Africa’.
The event served as a platform for business developers, business owners, entrepreneurs and investors on the continent and the world over to showcase their products and services in their quest to promote trade and economic development in Africa.
The event was also used to recognise and reward achievers and business leaders in trade, commerce, finance, health, energy, among others.
The Founder and Chief Executive of AFRIKANEKT, Marlon Weir, in a statement said “As a passionate Pan-African, I have an unbridled passion for all things Africa. I am ever idealistic and positive about the potential of Africa and her people.”
He said the ACFTA agreement has made the possibility of our ancestors’ wildest dreams,” of free movement of goods and people.
“The establishment of the AfCFTA presents an unprecedented opportunity for continental cooperation, promising economic development and sustainable growth,” he said.
“We must be nimble – fleet of mind and foot – in order to spot opportunities and act succinctly. Furthermore, it is not enough to just move fast – we have to have a plan and forge strategic partnerships that will make us sustainable and go far… and in order to go far, we have to go together – “forward ever, backward – never!”
Marlon Weir is a Pan African practitioner, engaged in providing solutions to essential societal issues to enhance lives and serve as a bridge of unity for continental Africans and people of African descent in the global Diaspora to unify and engage
The publisher of The Africa Regional Journal (TARJ), Rossette Aliu Squire, spoke on the need for trade amongst countries in the Africa, in addition to free movement of persons, and goods and services across Africa. This she mentioned was achieved in Europe, and if Africa could unite in a similar way, it would help hasten development on the continent.
The ARA Seminar under TARJ Forum and Trade Fair focused on SMEs Development to create job in the region. Dr Genevieve Duncan Obuobi, Banker/SME Consultant/Leadership Strategist, Ghana, Dr Elizabeth Lucas- Afolalu, Founder, Yes You Can International, Mr Patrick Kabamba, Brand Strategist & Package Design Expert at mark servs, Botswana, who were among Speakers for the Seminar.
A panel discussion was also held for honourees present under the 100 inspiring individuals in Africa, including Dr Victor Alewo Adoji , Economist, Brand Marketing and Market Analysis, Mr Jean MALIC Kalima, President of Rwanda Mining Association, Mr Michael Bartlett Vanderpuye, President & Founder, M&C Group Global, Madam Sylvie Potignon, Founder & Director, Sofia International, Mr John Otumfuo Watson, CEO, Mayfair Estate, Madam Zulfat Mukarubega, Founder, University of Tourism, Technology and Business and Studies, Madam Jane Reason Ahadzie, Founder & CEO of JRA Cosmetics Ltd., Nana Adwoa Konadu Dsane, Founder of Thyroid Ghana Foundation.
Forum Speakers included Dr Victor Alewo Adoji, Mr Michael Bartlett-Vanderpuye, Madam Sylvie Potignon and Mr Francis Anatog, Secretary, National Public Sector Matter and National Active Committee AfCTCA, Nigeria.
Victor Alewo Adoji, an Economist, Brand Marketing Expert and Market Analyst from Nigeria in a statement at the forum revealed that there are infrastructural gaps in Africa that need to be addressed.
“The first time I travelled to Europe, I was able to hit 17 countries in less than 2 days,” he said.
“I started from Oxford London and ended up in Germany and flew back to London. And I used one train railway line all the way from London to Germany. Once your passport is stamped in the UK or in France, no one asks to stamp your passport anymore because they see themselves as one economic zone.”
He noted that this cannot happen in Africa currently due to a number of challenges.
“I don’t know if you can travel from Mali, Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa so seamlessly. Until we get the infrastructure deficit in Africa right, then we are not ready for the CFTA,” he said.
He also talked about the mentality problems that are characterizing people in various parts of the continent as a challenge to the free trade area.
Here, he gave examples of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, among several other undesirable circumstances like border closures and stiff business conditions that hinder Africans from working in a number of countries on the continent.
He called upon Africans to start consuming what is produced on the continent, as a way of promoting the implementation of the ACFTA.
“Where I come from in Nigeria, for you to be considered a big boy, you must have Gucci outfits or Louis Vuitton outfits and so on. Nobody respects you when you wear kente . What they don’t realise is that the moment you put on kente, you are putting someone in their job in Africa,” he said.
“The greatest solution to activating and achieving the spirit of ACFTA is to begin consuming what we produce,” he added.
Sylvie Potignon, a Cyber Security Investor based in the United Arab Emirates said that Africa also has a lot of work in addressing cyber-security related issues as it looks to trade under the ACFTA.
“We talking about ACFTA, but how many of you are sure that your country is protecting you (in terms of cyber security)?” she asked her audience.
“We have the convention of Malabo. They wrote everything that was necessary, but only 8 countries have signed it. This is not enough. You want to do free trade, but when you start, you will be using I.T, the internet, networks. These people abroad (hackers) are waiting for us,” she added.
Michael Bartlett-Vanderpuye, President and Chairman of the M&C GROUP, in a statement said the continent needs good governance to thrive. He thus urged African leaders to appreciate the importance of democracy, transparency and good governance in the approach to the implementation of AfCFTA.
Amongst those honoured in the 100 inspiring individuals list are Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General, and World Trade Center who was our African Woman of the Year, Mr Andry Rajoelina, President of Madagascar, and our African Man of the year. Others honoured include Hon. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, Minister of Energy, Mr Emmanuel Udom, Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, and many more across the continent.
Sponsors of the event were The African Regional Journal with M&C Group Global , BSystems, Wolfram mining and processing limited, Peoplepay, made in Africa, JRA cosmetics.
By Adu Koranteng