Reaping benefits by attending the Intra-African Trade Fair
West African entrepreneurs representing the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Senegal, agriculture in Sierra Leone, and handicrafts and agriculture in Guinea described their one-week stay in Durban, South Africa, as successful, giving them opportunities to network and find new markets.
Noellen Barber, Managing Director at Nianda Agriculture and Trading Company of Sierra Leone says that participating in the Intra-African Trade Fair has opened new doors for her business. Founded in 2011, the Sierra Leonean company collects as well as distributes fruits and vegetables by out-growers. Nianda also trades in high-quality certified seeds, fertilisers, herbicides, and farm tools.
Barber brought products such as cassava chips, cassava flour, plantain flour, and potato flour to the Trade Fair. She is particularly excited about the big interest in her plantain chips and cassava flour that could be exported as far as the United Kingdom thanks to the diaspora community in the country.
“We have met with people interested in our products and I intend to follow up on potential new trade opportunities, especially with countries within Africa,” the Managing Director says.
Barber’s participation in the Intra-African Trade Fair was possible through the International Trade Centre’s West Africa Competitiveness Programme in Sierra Leone.
Haddja Kaba, coordinator at La Guinéenne des Terroirs, a non-governmental organization that works with rural women farmers and women entrepreneurs to increase their income by reducing the chain of middlemen, has lined up a few lucrative deals herself.
“ITC’s INTEGRA programme for youth supports us in finding new markets, which has real impact on the lives of women farmers. This international trade fair has given us incredible exposure to potential new markets. I am very excited to have met with buyers that are interested in our products,” says Kaba.
Throughout the week, Kaba interacted with many buyers interested in products including fonio flour, natural tea, shea butter, sumbara, shea soaps, coconut oil, forest honey, black soap and handcrafts.
“You can see that it is busy here at the ITC booth. I have already sealed several deals. There is massive interest in the health benefits of fonio, because it is gluten free and helps manage diabetes,” the coordinator explains.
Oumar Camara, Givagro Director General and export officer for COPEFL (Coopérative des exportateurs des fruits et légumes), also benefited from participating in the Fair through the West African Competitiveness programme in Guinea.
Camara works with over 100 farmers in Guinea through his cooperatives, thereby specializing in selling fruits and vegetables. The enterprise has ten years of experience in distributing a variety of fresh farm produce. The young Guinean entrepreneur described the international trade fair as a huge eye opener that has helped him appreciate the value of new markets.
“Attending this trade fair is already paying off. The impact will be life-changing for the farmers,” says Camara. “I met with buyers who want to import pineapple but also mango, papaya and avocado from Guinea.”
Camara is planning to follow up on his over 30 meetings with business trips to Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Mali, Sierra Leone and South Africa.
The West Africa Competitiveness Programme in Senegal promotes ICT services to improve Senegal's possibilities in the African market for digital products and services. The goal is to export ICT services and expand business process outsourcing (BPO), such as call and help centres.
“Joining the Intra-African Trade Fair has helped us confirm Senegal’s potential in the African market, expand on these discussions and strengthen the implementation of our strategy to become a major player in the ICT sector in Africa,” says Abdoukhadre Diagne, representative of the Organization of Professionals in Information and Communication Technologies (OPTIC) in Senegal.
He continues to say that “this trip has been a big a success. We have had very progressive meetings that will help us grow our market. The icing on the case was our fruitful meeting with Afreximbank.” says Diagne.
OPTIC is a member of the National Employers Council in Senegal and brings together the main companies operating in ICT, but also telecommunications operators. Over 80% of Senegalese companies are part of the Council.
About the Intra-African Trade Fair
The Intra-African Trade Fair boosts trade in Africa and brings together a plethora of African professionals. The event, held recently in mid-November, attracted over 1,100 exhibitors, 10,000 buyers and sellers who came together under the umbrella of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – a single market for goods and services across 55 countries.
The One Trade Africa programme of the International Trade Centre (ITC), funded by Finland, brought to IATF entrepreneurs from Sierra Leone, Senegal and Guinea, as part of the West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP) and INTEGRA, to meet potential buyers and make valuable business connections.