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The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (www.ITFC-IDB.org) organized a virtual Roundtable with high-level speakers from the Governments of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Spain, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the International Trade Center, and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the impact of COVID-19 on trade in the Arab region and new business opportunities in the post-Covid era.
Eng. Sonbol, ITFC CEO: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown more clearly the importance of AfTIAS 2.0”, calling on donor countries and international development organizations to join AfTIAS 2.0 and contribute to the formidable task of supporting the most vulnerable and fragile countries in the Arab region.
The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), on the 25th March 2021, organized a virtual roundtable on the second phase of the Aid for Trade Initiative for the Arab States Programme (AfTIAS 2.0) themed “Contribution to the economic recovery post COVID-19 through inclusive job creation.”. The speakers and contributors at the roundtable highlighted various aspects of AfTIAS 2.0’s expected interventions, namely, poverty alleviation, inclusive job creation, enhancing stability in fragile states, and curbing migration.
The rountable was chaired by Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO of International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) and Chairman of the AfTIAS Programme Board and with opening remarks from Mr. Frederick Agah Yonov, Deputy Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO). The series of discussions and contributions kickstarted with keynote addresses by Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, Minister of Trade, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi General Authority of Foreign Trade (GAFT), Dr. Nevin Gamea, Minister of Trade and Industry, Arab Republic of Egypt and Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, Executive Director (Arab Countries), International Monetary Fund (IMF), followed by a brief presentation on the AfTIAS Program by ITFC.
In his opening speech, H.E. Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, Minister of Trade and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority for Foreign Trade, reviewed the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in establishing the Aid for Trade Initiative for Arab States (AfTIAS) in its first phase, reiterating the importance of promoting trade in the Arab world. His Excellency also added, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking forward to optimising the second phase of the AfTIAS program, with the aim of enhancing the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, to increase the sector’s GDP contribution from 20% to 35% in line with the strategic goal of the Kingdom's 2030 Vision.”
Dr. Nevin Gamea, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Arab Republic of Egypt, also announced Egypt's continuing support for the Program in its second phase, stressing that all efforts will be made to ensure the success of the program in promoting trade in the Arab world, which is still at low levels compared to other regional trading blocs across the globe.
Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, Executive Director (Arab Countries), International Monetary Fund (IMF), spoke on how AfTIAS 2.0 could enhance stability in fragile Arab countries. Providing an overview of the economic and market landscape of the Arab region, he emphasized that trade can lead to improving future prospects through food security, employment, domestic revenue and resilience.
Speaking at the roundtable, Ms Rola Dashti Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) provided an assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on trade globally and in the Arab region in particular, highlighting the challenges being faced. Heraddress was followed by D.r Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade (ITC), who presented on business creation and ways to fast track internationalization for young entrepreneurs in Arab states in a post-COVID context. Ms. Maria Molina, Head of the Department of Cooperation with the Arab World and Asia, Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID)highlighted the need to curb migration through creation of decent jobs in Arab countries.
Commenting on the importance of the Roundtable, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, ITFC CEO, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown more clearly than anything before that today’s global challenges do not stop at borders, and that cooperation is the key to overcoming them. The design of AfTIAS 2.0 as a regional program directly corresponds to this vital need for cooperation”. The CEO called on donor countries and international development organizations to join AfTIAS 2.0 and contribute to the formidable task of supporting the most vulnerable and fragile countries in the Arab region.
The AfTIAS 2.0 Program was designed by ITFC in 2020 in consultation with beneficiary countries, regional and international organisations, following the successful completion of the 1st phase of the programme in 2018. AfTIAS 2.0 puts emphasis on inclusivity. A specific focus of AfTIAS 2.0 is to create jobs for youth and women, thereby alleviating the negative impact of COVID-19 in the Arab region, contributing to stability and mitigating migration challenges. The programme will be formally launched in June 2021 and will run for five years.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC).
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About the International Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC):
The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) is a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group. It was set up with the primary goal of advancing trade among OIC member countries, which would ultimately contribute to the principal goal of improving the socio-economic conditions of the people across the world. Commencing operations in January 2008, ITFC has supplied more than US$55 billion of financing to OIC member countries, making it the leading provider of trade solutions for these member countries’ needs. With a mission to become a catalyst for trade development for OIC member countries and beyond, the Corporation helps entities in member countries gain better access to trade finance and provides them with the necessary trade-related capacity-building tools, which would enable them to successfully compete in the global market.