Nigeria’s Zenith Bank has solidified its partnership with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at establishing an innovative smart trade portal for intercontinental commerce. The venture, valued at $1 million, was formalized during the ongoing 2023 Zenith Bank International Trade Seminar held in Lagos.

Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, the Group CEO of Zenith Bank, and Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of AfCFTA, were the signatories to the momentous MoU, which holds the potential to revolutionize trade dynamics within the continent.

At the heart of this collaboration is the shared vision to bolster Africa’s economic progress by fostering internal trade relationships. Speaking at the seminar themed “Nigerian Non-Oil Export Industry, The Present, the Future,” Dr. Onyeagwu underscored the imperative for Africa to prioritize its internal trade and rely on its own resources.

The concept of a singular trade portal for Africa embodies the aspiration to drive the continent’s prosperity through intraregional collaboration. Dr. Onyeagwu highlighted the transformative role the portal is poised to play in streamlining trade activities among African nations, serving as a catalyst for smoother, more efficient transactions.

Explaining the capabilities of the portal and how it will impact trade in Africa, the Zenith Bank Group CEO said: “With the MoU, Zenith will be developing the smart AfCFTA portal which is going to serve as a straight Porter that will showcase African products and services and where they can be found. With the development of this portal, one of the capabilities we are going to build in there is that you can see it in every part of Africa and market your products and services. You can see it in every part of Africa and identify whatever products and services you require that are in Africa.

“If you look at Q1 exports in Nigeria, you will realize that 46.43% of non-oil exports in Nigeria go to Europe, 24.85% go to Asia, America 18.39%, and Africa 10.27%. And also there is this tendency in Africa; the moment you are looking for an item you can’t find in your geography or region, the next thing you think of is how do I find it in Europe? How do I find it in the West? How do I find it in China? Now with the development of the AfCFTA portal, we are saying “look for it in Africa before you look elsewhere.”

While noting that Africa had always looked up to foreigners to lead the way when it comes to the issue of prosperity on the continent, he said it was time for Africans to take charge.

Speaking at the event, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA, Mene commended Zenith Bank for coming up with the idea of a smart trade portal for Africa and for funding it to the tune of $1 million.

“What many of you may not be aware of and the MD may be too modest to say is that Zenith Bank was the first bank to come to me to say we want to partner with you. We went to see the chairman and the Chairman said that Zenith Bank wants to make a contribution to digitize trade in Africa.  I’ve never been offered a million dollars before. It was the first time when he said here is a million dollars.

“The chairman said the one million dollars was to demonstrate the commitment as a bank to digitization in Africa. So, the portal wasn’t my idea; it wasn’t our idea at the AfCFTA Secretariat. It was Zenith Bank that stepped up and said this has to be done,” he said.

As Africa continues its journey towards economic self-sufficiency and growth, the collaboration between Zenith Bank and AfCFTA is set to contribute significantly to the realization of this vision. The establishment of a smart trade portal symbolizes a groundbreaking step towards strengthening the bonds of commerce within the African continent.

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