The South African port city of Durban has been awarded the right to host the 2nd Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021) after logistical challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced organisers to move the event from the Rwandan capital Kigali.
In a statement on Monday, IATF2021 Advisory Council chairperson Olusegun Obasanjo said the decision to move the fair was arrived at after the Rwandan government “indicated that logistical constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic had adversely affected the progress of construction of a new facility to host the event.”
“Relocating IATF2021 to Durban saves us time on the calendar and will enable African countries and corporates, as part of their recovery strategy, to take full advantage of the trade fair, which is also an important component of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement under which trading commenced this year,” the former Nigerian president said.
The trade fair, which was initially scheduled to take place from 8-14 December in Kigali, is now set for 15-21 November.
Obasanjo thanked the South African government and the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government for stepping up to host the trade fair, and “for the swift efforts that are being made to ensure that IATF2021 safely accommodates the growing number of participating governments, exhibitors, buyers, conference delegates, and visitors that have confirmed their participation in the event.”
“Having undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the measures that are being taken by the AU and Afreximbank under the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team as well as other initiatives to procure vaccines for the continent, we believe that a significant number of people would have been vaccinated by November and this will allow us to have a successful event,” Obasanjo said.
KwaZulu-Natal provincial premier Sihle Zikalala pledged that his government would put in place measures to ensure that delegates and participants at the trade fair would be protected from contracting COVID-19.
“Based on plans announced by our President Cyril Ramaphosa on rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination programme in South Africa, we will be ready in November to host our brothers and sisters in Durban for this Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021),” Zikalala said.
The announcement of the relocation of the trade fair comes at a time when South Africa is battling a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen the number of infection averaging more than 20,000 daily.
Jointly organised by the African Export-Import Bank, the African Union and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, IATF2021 is expected to provide a platform for promoting trade under the AfCFTA.