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Lebanese agriculture faces devastating losses in wake of Saudi export ban

Fruit and vegetable exports to Saudi Arabia are worth around $36 million, a lifeline for tens of thousands of farmers now slipping into poverty and unable to afford winter heating.

Beirut - Lebanese farmers were already reeling from the country’s economic collapse. The two and a half month import ban on all Lebanese agriculture imposed by Saudi Arabia could decimate whatever is left of the barely surviving industry.

Lebanon may be small compared to other countries in the Middle East, but because of its geography, climate, fertile soil and average rainfall, it has the highest percentage of agricultural land in the region, at around 65% of its total area of just under 10,500 square kilometres, although around half is non-productive. The Lebanese agricultural sector had generated nearly $2 billion in revenues in 2019, with exports largely sent to the Arab Gulf states, including 22% to Saudi Arabia, 17% to Qatar and 12% to Syria.

But following the 2019 financial collapse, the Lebanese economy has contracted by about 30% since 2017 and is expected to contract further in 2022. The Lebanese lira has lost over 90% of its value to the US dollar, while food prices have increased almost ten-fold since May 2019. Cumulative inflation stands at 603% between November 2019 and November 2021. Unemployment is estimated to be over 40%, and over half of households are below the poverty line, according to the World Bank, which reported Lebanon’s economic crisis ranks among the most severe episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century.

Farmers have been hit particularly hard with the cutting off of their main export market of Saudi Arabia after the Kingdom in late October 2021 barred all Lebanese agriculture from entering its borders, citing a series of recent drug smuggling attempts, allegedly hidden in fruit and vegetable shipments. And because Lebanese trucks are not allowed to traverse Saudi Arabia’s territory, their access to other Gulf markets has been severely impacted as shipments must now travel by sea, according to Ibrahim Al Tarshishi, head of the Farmers Association in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon's main agricultural region. 

According to data from the International Trade Centre, Lebanese exports to Saudi Arabia amounted to $247 million in 2020, with fruits and vegetables topping the list and worth around $36 million. The leading crops are potatoes, followed by tomatoes, cucumbers, gherkins, grapes, apples, cherries, figs, mint, coriander, parsley and radishes.

“Due to the ban, our sale prices are falling down to the ground and there are fewer customers,” said George Hana Fakhry, member of the Social and Economic Council (SEC) at the General Council for Agricultural Trade Unions in Lebanon. “I had to sell my products at very low prices, often less than the cost of production,” he said.

Agriculture is the second biggest employer in Lebanon following the services sector. It represents 4% of total employment in Lebanon, including nearly 64,000 workers, half of whom face dire circumstances as a direct result of the ban.

“Everything is expensive due to the collapse of the currency and now the export ban. I buy all my materials with US dollars and yet I have to sell them in Lebanese Lira,” said Ali Shokor, a farmer from the Bekaa.

Most farmers are employed seasonally, mainly in the summer to cover the high cost of winter heating. “Before the ban, Lebanese merchants who export to the Gulf used to come and buy my products, but this season I have not seen any of them,” Shokor said. “So I sold my products in the local market at low prices, without being able to save any money for winter. I do not know how we will make it.”

Saudi-Lebanese trade iis more than 60 years old, Tarshishi said, adding: “We have inherited these markets from our parents and planned on passing them to our sons because our parents have worked so hard to build trust between us and the Saudi merchants.” He said there were no alternative markets to turn to.

“We hope the Lebanese government takes some steps to solve the ban issue to go back to normal relations and to live in peace,” he said. A food security crisis is looming for the country, and a collapse of the agriculture sector will only hasten its arrival, Tarshishi said.

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Tough year ahead for much of the OIC

For many of the 57 member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Council (OIC), 2022 is going to be a challenge. Issues that have plagued countries will continue, while new challenges will arise as nations battle to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, climatic disruptions, and socio-political instability.


There will be much to discuss at the General Secretariat of the OIC’s 35th session of the Islamic Committee of the International Crescent (ICIC) on 5 January. While there are pockets of stability and socio-economic development in the OIC, notably the Gulf countries and the more economically developed Southeast Asian nations of Malaysia and Indonesia, the challenges are particularly acute in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, with humanitarian crises, rising unemployment, inequality and inflation.

According to medical and security specialist International SOS’s Risk Outlook 2022, OIC countries are among the most ‘extreme’, with Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq in the top five most dangerous countries to visit this year. Other nations in the ‘extreme’ category include Mali, Yemen, and Somalia as well as certain parts of Nigeria and Pakistan.

Yet while the situation is difficult in much of the OIC, it is the same across much of the world, with the World Bank and World Health Organisation estimating more than half a billion people were pushed into extreme poverty in 2021.

North Africa and the Sahel

In North Africa, the instability in Libya over the past decade continues to impact the region and its neighbours. Libya was a major destination market prior to 2011 for exports and foreign labour, which has largely dried up, while the political situation has remained fragile.

The pandemic hit the country hard, with the economy contracting by 36.4% in 2020, according to Fitch Solutions, although is set for a rebound this year on the back of higher oil prices. The Libyan conflict has had dire spillover consequences for the Sahel region, with the French military and UN presence in the region spluttering since 2013.

Last year was the most violent in the past decade for Mali, Bukina Faso and Niger, with 2,246 terrorist attacks and battles, compared to 244 in 2013, and 5,317 deaths, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project. Instability in the Sahel and parts of North Africa are also feeding the drive to migrate to Europe, with the area a conduit for human trafficking routes to Libya and beyond.

As the Europe Union’s response continues to focus on the military in the Sahel, and through strengthening its border force, Frontex, which is set to having a standing force of 10,000 by 2027, major challenges for the region are set to continue. In 2022, the UN notes that more than 30 million Sahelians will need assistance and protection, over 1 million more than 2021. Some 3.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

Sub Saharan Africa

The pandemic has disrupted economies across Africa, with the IMF estimating an additional 30 million people have been plunged into extreme poverty. On top of the impact of COVID-19, conflict and severe climatic events are causing further instability. Millions of people have been displaced over the past year in Ethiopia, Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Sahel.

In West and Central Africa, the crises are impacting more than 61 million people, with 28 million currently food insecure, notes the UN. Climate change, heavy rains and flooding affected more than 1.2 million people in 13 countries in 2021. In Southern Africa, the picture is also not rosey, with drought across much of the region. In Eastern Africa, the Ethiopian conflict has impacted the whole region, while political instability in Sudan is also causing negative ramifications.

On the flip side, Sub-Saharan African economies are forecast to grow by 3.8% in 2022, largely on the back of improved global trade and commodity prices. However, food inflation is expected to be particularly challenging, having risen from 2% per year in 2019, to 11% in 2021, while globally, food inflation rose 30% in 2021, according to the IMF.

The Middle East

The conflicts in Syria and Yemen continue to loom large over the Middle East. While signs of rapprochement between Gulf states and Syria holds some promise for greater stability, the Syrian economy has been ravaged, and there seems minimal funds available for substantive reconstruction to take place. The Syrian conflict, which is entering its twelfth year, is also hobbling the chances of Lebanon’s economic recovery, which has been hit by a financial crisis since October 2019, and the depreciation of the currency by over 90%.

Syria’s currency has also seriously depreciated, in part due to the Lebanese financial crisis, with the country having been Syria’s business and financial window to the world, and a major destination for deposits. Lebanese parliamentary elections in March are not expected to cause a sea-change amid deteriorating economic conditions, with an estimated 70% of the population on or below the poverty line.

In Iraq, the country is still reeling from the US-led invasion and the wider Syria conflict, while a record low rain-fall in 2021, has impacted the agricultural sector. In neighbouring Turkey, the lira’s deprecation by 44% to the US dollar in 2021, has caused serious problems for the economy, with the cost of energy and inflation rising, although exports reached an all-time high on the back of the weak lira.

In Yemen, over six years of conflict has devastated the country, with over 20 million people in need of aid – equivalent to 66% of the population – and over 4 million internally displaced.

Southern Asia

The withdrawal of US and NATO military forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, attracted significant global media attention, but the aftermath has been less covered as the country has descended into further economic malaise. OIC countries gathered in Islamabad, Pakistan, to discuss the Afghan humanitarian crisis in December, agreeing to help Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds and the Islamic Development Bank to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund.

The poorest country in Asia, per capita incomes declined from $650 in 2012, to $508 in 2020, and is forecast to drop to $350 this year, according to UN figures. Afghanistan’s GDP is slated to decline by 20%, to $16 billion, and could potentially decline by 30% if the situation continues to deteriorate. Some 22.8 million face acute food insecurity.

Neighbouring Pakistan continues to be impacted by the Afghan crisis, but the economy is looking more optimistic this year, with growth forecast at 3.2%.

On the other side of the Indian subcontinent, Bangladesh has had a tough couple of years, with the pandemic impacting the economy, and the country hosting 884,000 Rohingya refugees. The outlook for 2022, is more positive, with the country’s biggest export segment, garments, set to rebound as buying increases in the major export markets of Europe and North America, while the economy could reach half a trillion dollars this fiscal year if double-digit growth is achieved.


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Booming Indonesia stock market seen trumping peers next year

Published 26 Nov,2021 via Bloomberg Markets - Rising commodity prices and easing border restrictions will probably fuel economic growth that helps Indonesia’s key stock index extend its record to lead regional gains next year, analysts predict.

“Indonesia is setting up for a strong 2022 because it is approaching vaccination thresholds that facilitate full re-opening and faster growth momentum,” said Alan Richardson, a fund manager at Samsung Asset Management in Hong Kong.

Easing restrictions as regional coronavirus infections abate along with high prices of the commodities Indonesia exports -- palm oil, crude oil and coal -- have attracted inflows into the nation’s stocks and bonds. That’s prompted upgrades of its equity market this month by the likes of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., while Morgan Stanley and BlackRock Inc. also rate it as overweight.

Goldman Sachs predicts 19% earnings-per-share growth for the market next year versus 17% consensus estimates. That’s higher than the bank’s 9% outlook for the MSCI Asia Pacific ex Japan Index.

Adding to Indonesia’s appeal are improving consumer confidence and automotive sales that will also contribute to a “significant” acceleration in economic growth next year, Credit Suisse Group AG strategists wrote in a Nov. 25 report.

Singapore and Thailand could emerge as strong contenders to Indonesian stocks’ top spot in Southeast Asia if both countries continue to reopen borders to tourism as a new Covid-19 variant emerges, and as banks are seen benefiting from reflation. Singapore’s Straits Times Index is close to erasing its pandemic-triggered losses and Thai stocks are trading near a two-year high.

Some $870 million net foreign funds flowed into Indonesian equities this quarter from a total $1.92 billion into Southeast Asian shares excluding Singapore and Vietnam, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, while the nation’s local currency government bonds are the region’s top performers in the second half.

“Indonesia stands out as our preferred means to gain exposure to the region’s reopening and economic recovery – it is a net energy exporter and is starting to reopen after containing the recent wave of Covid-19 contagion, plus its equities are still early in the recovery cycle,” Ray Farris, chief investment officer for South Asia at Credit Suisse, said in the bank’s 2022 outlook report.

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Nigeria’s exports trade forecasted to peak at $112 bn by 2030

Published 25 Nov,2021 via BizWatchNigeria - Nigeria’s export trade is projected to reach $112 billion in 2030, topping the volume for Africa according to a new research by Standard Chartered Bank.

The research, titled, “Future of Trade 2030: Trends and Markets to Watch,” also forecasted that the global exports trade would grow from $17.4 trillion to $29.7 trillion between 2021 and 2030.

At a 9.7 percent yearly growth rate, the report anticipates Nigeria’s export volume to peak at $112 billion by 2030.

It noted that Nigeria’s future growth would be propelled by its current and future investments in its digital and physical infrastructure, and advancement in its business environment.

“Driven by its Industrial Revolution Plan and National Digital Economy Policy (2020-2030), Nigeria has shifted its focus towards promoting digital transformation, financial inclusion, and physical infrastructure development with a series of billion-dollar projects.”

”These efforts are forecasted to facilitate Nigeria’s plans for economic diversification and non-petroleum growth.”

“Nigeria is actively nurturing its industrial sector through an array of tax and tariff breaks as well as reduced red tape and protectionist measures.”

“It is working to streamline its trade procedures, lower trade-related costs, and reduce border delays. The government also offers a wide range of incentives, such as unrestricted profit repatriation, to attract FDI.”

The report stated that the projected global trade growth would be led largely by 13 markets.

It lists the markets as; Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, Mainland China, and Malaysia. Others are Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, United Arab Emirate (UAE), and Vietnam.

The report which was commissioned by Standard Chartered and prepared by PwC Singapore is based on an analysis of historical trade data and projections until 2030, as well as insights from a survey of more than 500 C-suite and senior leaders in global companies.

The report showed that world trade will be restructured by five key trends, they include; the wider adoption of sustainable and fair-trade practices; a push for more inclusive participation; greater risk diversification; more digitisation, and a rebalancing towards high-growth emerging markets.

“Globalisation will drive the next decade of growth. Despite the recent push towards onshoring, growth corridors of the future will not just be intraregional – they will be global spanning Africa-East Asia; ASEAN-South Asia; East Asia-Europe; East Asia- Middle East; East Asia-Europe; South Asia-US,” the report reads.

“Asia, Africa, and the Middle East will see a ramp-up in investment flows, with 82 percent of respondents saying they are considering new production locations in these regions in the next five to 10 years, supporting the trend towards rebalancing to emerging markets and greater risk diversification of supply chains.”

The Executive Director, Corporate Commercial and Institutional Banking, Standard Chartered Nigeria Korede Adenowo, stated that the predicted doubling of global trade provides solid evidence that globalisation is still working, despite recent dislocation.

“In addition to the growth of intra-regional trade pathways, the corridors of the future will still cut across continents,” he said.

“Against this backdrop, we continue to focus on making globalisation work for more markets and businesses, ranging from micro to multinational, and drive a more sustainable and inclusive model for global trade.

“This includes growing our range of sustainable finance solutions to help our corporate clients implement sustainable and fair-trade practices across their supply chains.”

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Dubai gets its way as business trumps regional strife

Published 25 Nov,2021 via Bloomberg Politics & Policy - Fatma Emrem’s phone has been ringing non-stop since the United Arab Emirates and Turkey repaired ties. A partner at Tamim Consulting, Emrem advises mostly Turkish companies setting up in the UAE commercial capital, Dubai.

“Their main question is how confident should we be that good relations will continue,” she said. “They’re encouraged by recent reforms and lower company setup costs but they want to be sure politics won’t disrupt their business in the future.”

It’s been a rapid turn-around since the UAE unveiled its foreign policy reset in September, vowing to step back from political conflicts and refocus on the economy — targeting $150 billion in investments through deeper links with fast-growing economies, including Turkey’s.

The shift is part of a broader realignment that’s seen erstwhile Middle East rivals overcome sometimes violent differences as the U.S. disengages from the region. After a decade of interventionism that cost billions in lost opportunities, it’s also the clearest sign yet that Dubai’s business-focused model has won out.

A pearling town bereft of the oil that’s enriched Abu Dhabi, the largest of the UAE’s seven sheikhdoms, Dubai transformed itself into a global financial center by sidestepping regional conflicts and pitching itself as a stable, tax-free harbor in a sea of troubles.

It was Dubai that pushed for a review of foreign policies that had left the UAE with a growing list of enemies, said two people familiar with the matter. Attacks on Saudi oil facilities in 2019 and disruption of shipping in the Persian Gulf sharpened the focus on the UAE’s vulnerability, they said, but increasing competition from Saudi Arabia ultimately persuaded Abu Dhabi to change course. The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Business topped the agenda when the UAE’s de facto leader met his Turkish counterpart Wednesday, turning the page on a decade of strained ties and poisonous rhetoric to launch a $10 billion fund to invest in the country during a time of financial upheaval.

Already, ads for Turkish companies have appeared on electronic billboards outside Dubai’s World Trade Center. A Turkish pavilion was hurriedly tacked on at Dubai Expo and a senior business delegation arrived just ahead of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s landmark Ankara visit.

“They’re going back to basics; to Dubai’s classic philosophy of non-intervention, neutrality and business-first approach,” said Jim Krane, author of the 2009 book ‘City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism.’ “Abu Dhabi’s policy of choosing sides and picking fights has been bad for the economy. They realized this is not a successful strategy.”

Back to business

The economic impact could be significant as the shift dovetails with higher oil prices and a global recovery from Covid-19.

When the UAE joined Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain in boycotting Qatar back in 2017 over its ties to Islamist groups and Iran, it erased at least $3.5 billion in annual trade overnight and deprived UAE-based companies of opportunities as its neighbor prepared for the 2022 soccer World Cup, building stadiums, hotels and roads. Qatar, which previously bought most construction materials from the UAE, was forced to find new suppliers. Shipments were rerouted to Omani ports.

Trade with Turkey slumped 44% in 2018, after the Qatar spat pulled it into the fray. Also supportive of Islamists, Turkey deployed troops to Qatar, further straining ties. The following year, the two countries entered Libya’s civil war on opposing sides.

Meanwhile, the UAE supported Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions in 2018. Trade with Iran more than halved to $5 billion the following year, Bloomberg data show. On the same day as the landmark Ankara visit, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister met senior officials in Dubai and announced a “new page” in relations.

“The consensus was that it’s now time to cool tensions after 10 years where Dubai paid a price,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a UAE political science professor.

Easing tensions are already rippling down Dubai Creek, where small wooden ships known as dhows have for decades criss-crossed the narrow stretch of sea to Iran.

A native of Iran’s Bushehr province, Mohsen Abdulla and his 10-man crew used to make a dozen trips a year before U.S. sanctions snapped back. That fell to three as restrictions tightened. Dubai’s trade with the Islamic Republic surged back to pre-sanctions levels this year.

“The past five years were very tough and we faced troubles at both ends,” said the 38-year-old, as workers stacked boxes of microwaves, vacuum cleaners and air conditioners onto his newly-built dhow. “Business started improving this year.”

No real change

For the most part, Dubai’s laissez-faire approach hasn’t been out of step with the wider UAE. It was after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that differences began to emerge.

For Abu Dhabi, staving off the revolutionary forces sweeping the Middle East took precedence over luring foreign investors, an outlook partly driven by what diplomats say is MBZ’s preoccupation with security.

Chastened by a bailout from its wealthier neighbor in the midst of the global financial crisis three years earlier, Dubai toed the line even as economic concerns grew.

As the tumult that followed those uprisings calms and Islamists lose influence across the region, Abu Dhabi is more comfortable shifting focus. In Libya, the UAE’s bet on a Russian-backed general to overthrow the internationally-recognized Tripoli government never paid off. The Yemen war drew international criticism and, as it dragged on, top officials found themselves making repeat visits to the families of fallen soldiers in the less wealthy, and sparsely populated, northern emirates. That’s not to say the UAE would stand aside if such threats re-emerged.

“The counter-revolutionaries have won for the time being, but if there was another Arab Spring 2.0 or other uprisings, the Emiratis will be firmly on the counter-revolutionaries’ side,” said Andreas Krieg, a lecturer at King’s College in London who has advised Qatar. “They haven’t changed in that way.”

It’s Saudi Arabia’s effort to open up its economy and establish itself as a Middle East base for multinational firms, that came as a wake-up call. With its geographical reach, political clout and untapped potential, the world’s biggest oil exporter is an imposing competitor.

In the UAE’s favor, stands Dubai, which has already established itself as a place to do business.

At a warehouse in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone, Mehmet Sirin Akyuz inspects crates of diapers manufactured at the Turkish firm’s Gaziantep base and destined for re-export to Africa.

In the 13 years he’s managed the Dubai operation, it’s never been affected by regional disputes, including with Turkey, a vindication, he said, of Dubai’s approach.

“The way we see it politics changes but business is for the long run,” he said. “For us, stability and continuity are the most important elements.”


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Saudi Arabia’s Neom to expand port to rival region’s biggest

Published 25 Nov,2021 via Bloomberg Markets- Saudi Arabia’s high-tech “Neom” mega-project plans to expand a tiny local port into a trade and manufacturing hub near the Suez Canal that officials say will compete with the biggest facilities in the Middle East.

The proposal is the latest eye-catching announcement by Neom, with progress on the ground so far limited to earthworks. About 12% of global trade flows through the Suez Canal.

The port will anchor an industrial city that Neom announced last week called Oxagon, Vishal Wanchoo, Oxagon’s chief executive, said in an interview. An existing port near the Red Sea town of Dhiba will be transformed to handle a container capacity of 3.5 to 4 million ton equivalent units (TEUs) by 2030, he said.

The project could eventually serve Neom’s commercial tenants as well as the broader Gulf region, Jordan and Iraq, he said. Capacity might extend up to 9 million TEUs depending on Oxagon’s growth, he added. Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, the region’s largest, has capacity of more than 19 million TEUs.

“We will develop a state-of-the-art port and supply chain system and we have a real advantage because we’re starting as a greenfield,” said Wanchoo, a former GE executive who joined Neom this year.

Announced in 2017, Neom is the crown jewel of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s program to overhaul the economy of the world’s largest oil exporter. His plan to turn the remote region on the kingdom’s northwest coast into a robot-driven tech hub encapsulates the major elements of his so-called “Vision 2030” to diversify away from crude, loosen social restrictions and boost investment.

But the project has stirred controversy, including skepticism about its feasibility after some previous efforts to build economic free zones struggled to take off.

Oxagon -- which officials say will eventually include a complex that “floats” on the sea -- illustrates those ambitions and challenges.

The 50-square-kilometer (19-square-mile) area is expected to house 80,000 to 90,000 residents and 40 to 50 companies by 2030, Wanchoo said. He did not disclose planned spending on the project, which combines government and private-sector investment.

The first phase of construction, until 2025, will focus on the segment to be built on land, he said, with the floating area still in the “early phases of design.”

“We wanted to look ahead and say with all of the climate change that’s occurring and the rising of the sea levels, could we build a modern day Venice,” he said -- “a floating city that doesn’t have to deal with rising sea levels, or deals with it because of the way it’s designed.”

Neom is looking at connecting Oxagon’s port with northeastern Saudi Arabia and the broader region first by road transport and later by rail, he said. Port operations with container capability will start in mid-2022 and expand from there, he said.

The project would rival the Red Sea city of Jeddah’s port in size. Between Jeddah and Oxagon, the kingdom is also expanding a facility called King Abdullah Port, which aims to reach a capacity of 25 million TEUs.

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Russia and Islamic world meeting kicks off in Jeddah

Published 24 Nov,2021 via Asharq Alawsat (English Edition) - The Strategic Vision Group meeting between Russia and the Islamic world kicked off on Wednesday in Jeddah under the patronage of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman.

Held under the theme “Dialogue and Prospects for Cooperation,” the meeting will include a broad participation of officials and scholars, and intellectuals from the Russian Federation and Islamic countries to discuss common issues and enhance cooperation in addressing the existing challenges.

The event includes 33 state and public figures from 27 Muslim countries, including former prime ministers, former ministers of foreign affairs and many religious figures from the Islamic world.

This meeting comes within the framework of Russia’s efforts to strengthen its relations with the Islamic world, in light of the Kingdom’s initiative for dialogue between followers of religions and cultures.

Saudi Arabia is hosting this meeting for the second time after the fourth session was also held in Jeddah in 2008.

The group currently focuses on developing measures to strengthen long-term cooperation between Russia and Islamic countries and practical implementation of the strategic partnership.

The Group was established in 2006 under the supervision of Evgeny Maksimovich Primakov and Mintimer Sharipovich Shaimiev after the Russian Federation joined the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as an observer member. The group held its first meeting in 2006 in Moscow, followed by the meetings in Kazan, Istanbul, Jeddah and Kuwait.

Ufa of the Republic of Bashkortostan hosted the last meeting on November 28-30, 2019, under the theme “Interfaith harmony ... The Experience of Russia and the Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.”


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Intra-African Trade Fair 2021 ends with commitment to strengthen AfCFTA

Published 24 Nov,2021 via Daily News Egypt - The second Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF 2021) ended on Sunday in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, with a collective commitment to ensure that the economic stimulation triggered by the event translates into the continued strengthening of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Speaking during the closing ceremony of IATF 2021 at the Durban International Convention Centre, Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman of the IATF 2021 Advisory Council and former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, expressed his gratitude to the KwaZulu-Natal Province for successfully hosting IATF 2021, and fully bringing the vision of the AfCFTA to life in a tangible and measurable way.

“It is no mean feat to have secured seven sitting presidents for the opening ceremony who stayed for hours during the entire programme,” said Chief Obasanjo. “Thank you immensely for all you have done to make sure this event takes place,” he added, promising to meet everyone in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in 2023.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, indicated that the road to Abidjan would commence immediately, with the launch of the IATF 2023 website registration portal, which is now live. “We will overcome the challenges we experienced with IATF 2021 and leverage the progress of the AfCFTA over the coming two years to make IATF 2023 an even more resounding success,” he concluded.

Ambassador Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Industry and Mining, said that the work of the AfCFTA would be further strengthened by the ratification of the African Union protocol on free movement of persons in Africa, which still needed eleven signatories in order to be passed. “Once the protocol is ratified, there will then be visa-free movement of people, and ultimately, the mainstream introduction of the African passport,” he said.

Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, complemented Afreximbank’s efforts in empowering and supporting free trade in the continent, saying the Bank had in the last two years pumped in close to US$25 Billion towards financing trade engagements within the continent.

“Not a single Country in Africa will be able to compete globally alone, hence African Countries must just integrate the market, something that has been evaded from Africa since 1963, when our forefathers hatched African Unity,” said Mene.

Speaking on behalf of the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Hon. Ravi Pillay underscored the need for the prioritisation of Africa’s industrialisation process. “It is important that we trade in products we have made – how can we be proud to trade in goods that were made elsewhere?” he said. On the topic of Africa’s willingness to adjust, Mr. Pillay said that the IATF 2021 had been a great demonstration of the combined political will towards supporting the AfCFTA. He expressed the province’s gratitude for the privilege of hosting the IATF 2021.

Kanayo Awani, Managing Director of Afreximbank’s Intra-African Trade Initiative, explained that the standards that had been set for this second edition had been based upon the learnings from IATF 2018 in Cairo, Egypt.

Awani announced that the business deals signed and concluded as of 21 November 2021 amounted to US$36 billion, exceeding the $32bn mark set at IATF 2018. She explained that additional deals were still going on and that some of the deals already closed were still being compiled.

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