Bridging the Sahara gap
Though trade between the relatively well to do nations of North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa is growing, there are still many infrastructure problems to contend with. A new partnership has been launched to address the issues.
The remit of the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), an autonomous entity in the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB), is to help its members find trade finance, with the same complying with the Shari’ah. Its most recent project focuses on intensifying economic cooperation between Morocco and Sub-Saharan African countries (SSA). To start the process, ITFC and Morocco’s National Company of Transports and Logistics (SNTL) launched a study for the development of logistics platforms for trade and investment facilitation between Morocco and SSA.
The biggest obstacle to trade between northern and southern Africa is the lack of physical infrastructure linking the two, ITFC CEO Hani Salem Sonbol said. "We’re aiming to narrow the infrastructure gap constraining trade between Morocco and SSA." The Arab states’ Arab Africa Trade Bridges programme also supports this aim of the ITFC.
The ITFC has identified the importance of developing trade hubs in Africa. Its involvement in this project is expected to improve trade solutions in Morocco and some SSA countries by reducing logistics costs, and encouraging trade exchange. Whilst all the partners agree on the plans, the realisation may face some challenges.
The scheme has been designed to open doors, create possibilities for investment in infrastructure, develop capacity-building skills and help create private enterprises that offer services to the public, including logistics solutions (transport, warehousing, cold storage, distribution, stabilising the value of agriculture goods). During the decade from 2004 to 2014, trade between Morocco and SSA has been rising steadily, but the big breakthrough has not yet taken place. This latest initiative is designed to help it on its way.
Sonbol closed by expressing his optimism that the partnership between the ITFC and the SNTL will yield a rich harvest. "I expect it to help to ease business on trade routes between Morocco and Sub-Saharan Africa, create encouraging results and support the local economies."