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Expert says information, not infrastructure key barrier to Africa-Caribbean trade

Business

 

  Afreximbank President Benedict Oramah argued infrastructure was not the real obstacle given creative solutions regularly emerge. [Brian Ngugi, Standard]

Information gaps rather than a lack of transport links represent the main constraint to boosting commercial ties between Africa and the Caribbean, the head of Africa's top trade finance bank said on Friday.

Speaking at a forum aiming to deepen cooperation between the regions, Afreximbank President Benedict Oramah argued infrastructure was not the real obstacle given creative solutions regularly emerge.

He recounted how Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote's firm found a way to transport industrial materials from Africa to the Caribbean by hitching shipping on return sugar voyages from Brazil.

"Where there is a will, a way will be found," Prof Oramah told delegates at the forum that was broadcast virtually, downplaying concerns over the movement of goods between regions not directly connected by air or sea routes.

Instead, the banker said low levels of intra-African trade, even between neighbours, stem more from a lack of market knowledge and business contacts - gaps his bank aims to help bridge through information platforms.

Analysts welcomed Oramah's focus on "soft" impediments, saying creative matchmaking was often what catalysed unlikely trade partnerships.

For his part, Oramah pledged Afreximbank's support in facilitating commercial opportunities once deals can take shape.

The president's remarks spurred discussions on initiatives to address information deficits, from targeted trade missions to streamlining customs procedures through digital tools.

Participants said minimizing information barriers could unlock significant untapped exchange between Africa and the Caribbean projected to reach $1.8 billion annually.

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