Home NewsBusiness News Zenith Bank signs agreement with AfCTA to develop SMARTAfCTA portal

Zenith Bank signs agreement with AfCTA to develop SMARTAfCTA portal

by Ikenna Ngere

In order to promote trade on the African continent, Zenith Bank Plc and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the creation of the SMARTAfCFTA Portal.

The SMARTAfCFTA Portal will help to open up the vast opportunities for trade on the African continent by providing information such as trade indicators, market trends, custom tariffs, trade agreements, rules of origin, market access requirements of relevant jurisdictions, export potentials, export diversification indicators, and contact information of business partners in target markets.

The MoU was signed by the Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank Plc, Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu and the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, His Excellency Wamkele Mene, during the 8th Annual Edition of the Zenith Bank International Trade Seminar on Non-Oil Export themed “Nigerian Non-Oil Export Industry: The Present, The Future”, held on Wednesday, August 8, 2023, at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos and virtually.

Speaking on the partnership with AfCFTA for the development of the SMARTAfCFTA Portal, the Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank, Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, said: “This collaboration aims to unlock the vast opportunities presented by AfCFTA not only for Nigeria’s economic prosperity but also for advancing trade across African countries”.

Dr. Onyeagwu highlighted the significant role played by the annual Zenith Bank Trade Seminar in advancing discussions regarding the promotion of non-oil exports in Nigeria. The seminar serves as a platform that brings together professionals engaged in non-oil exports and relevant government bodies, facilitating interaction and the exploration of opportunities while offering solutions to the challenges faced by the non-oil export sector in the nation.

Dr. Onyeagwu emphasized that the outcomes of previous editions of the seminar have been translated into concrete actions that have influenced policymaking. For example, recommendations from earlier seminars led to the elongation of the period within which Non-Oil Export proceeds must be repatriated, extending it from 90 days to 180 days. Additionally, a policy mandating shippers not to transport exports without a valid Nigeria Export Proceeds (NXP) Form Number also emerged from these seminars.

Moreover, insights from past seminars have prompted suggestions to incentivize exporters to repatriate their export earnings through official channels, and the proposal to establish export terminals at various export hubs across the nation. Another significant result from previous seminar editions was the proposal to establish Export Desks within commercial banks, a suggestion that has now been successfully implemented.

In his keynote address at the Zenith Bank International Trade Seminar, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, His Excellency Wamkele Mene, thanked the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia, CFR, for partnering with the AfCFTA for the development of the SMARTAfCFTA Portal. In his words: “Zenith Bank was the first bank to say “we want to partner with you”. We went to see the Founder and Chairman, and he said that Zenith Bank wants to make a contribution to digitise trade in Africa. And so the portal was not my idea, it was not our idea at the AfCTA Secretariat, it was Zenith Bank that stepped up and said, ‘this has to be done!’. So I want to thank you very much, GMD for this collaboration.”

Zenith Bank was praised for spearheading Nigeria’s non-oil export promotion campaign by Dr. Kingsley Obiora, the Deputy Governor of Economic Policy speaking on behalf of Mr. Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi, Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He lamented the ratio of Nigeria’s non-oil exports to the country’s total GDP of 1.2% and emphasized the importance of concentrated efforts to increase non-oil exports.

In order to advance the conversation on developing the non-oil export industry in Nigeria, Zenith Bank created the Non-Oil Export Seminar in 2016. The Secretary of the National Action Committee on AfCFTA, Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, delivered a message of goodwill at the 2023 International Trade Seminar as well.

There were also two-panel discussions, with the first panel discussion titled: “Nigeria Non-Oil Export Industry – Growth Opportunities”, while the second panel discussion was titled: “Harnessing the Opportunities in Service Export”.

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