Analysis: GODFRIDAH CHANDA
ZAMBIA through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry will host the 18th edition of the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in Lusaka from September 11-12, 2018 at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre. The theme for the forum is; scaling up through Trade: Skill-Innovate-Connect.
Government through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry in collaboration with the International Trade Centre (ITC) and support from various partners is organising this unique global platform dedicated to supporting trade-led development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
WEDF is an ITC annual event, which was first held in 2009 and ever since, the event has been held in different parts of the world. In 2017, the 17th edition of WEDF was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary. It is at this event, where Zambia was selected to host the 18th Edition of the event making it the second African country to host this Forum after Rwanda in 2014.
The forum will attract over six hundred participants. It will provide an issue-focused setting for policymakers, trade and investment support institutions and business leaders to gain practical understanding in trade competitiveness. It aims at linking producers and buyers, exporters and importers, commercial farmers and manufacturers to international businesses to innovative technologies and techniques. It also provides unparalleled opportunities for business operators to network and meet with potential partners.
The Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary, Kayula Siame recently said WEDF will support the country to focus on how enterprises can increase their export-oriented products and services through the capacity that will be enhanced at the event.
Conversations at the forum will be around creating jobs of tomorrow through trade; tearing down trade borders; reshaping finance for women; moving from agriculture to agribusiness; reducing risks, increasing returns; sustainable packaging; going green – who will finance Small Medium Enterprises?; mentoring young entrepreneurs; and reducing risk for investors in Africa among others.
The WEDF 2018 will kick off with an African Union and ITC interactive “Youth Conference,” where young people can have informal discussions on borderless world in relation to African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA). It is envisaged that the youths will have an opportunity to share their perspectives on business and market opportunities for the youths. ” The youths of today, have a window of opportunity to develop their business for tomorrow through opportunities such as WEDF created for them by the Government at no cost. This is because, youths will utilise and build business networks not only here in Zambia but with the rest of the world. In addition, the event will present young entrepreneurs’ pitch competition, featuring seven candidates from across the African continent,’’ Mrs Siame explained.
The WEDF will also feature business-to-business (B2B) meetings, as a platform for creating awareness and interactions between local and foreign investors, sharing business lessons and making various business connections while facilitating learning among entrepreneurs on their business competitors across the globe. B2B will also focus on illustrating how investment, trade and open markets can support inclusive development and help achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Other activities alongside the event include, the business exhibitions and SME trade academy whose focus is to provide the needed technical assistance by SMEs.
Prior to the World Export Development Forum, on September 10, 2018 there will be a launch of the SheTrades Zambia Chapter, under the framework of the global SheTrades initiative. This is an initiative aimed at empowering women economically through greater integration in trade and investment with the goal of connecting 3 million women to markets by 2021.
Post WEDF, on September 13, 2018, the Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa (PIGA) will hold a Zambia- China investment meeting. This meeting intends to gather Chinese companies interested in investing in the agro-processing and light manufacturing sectors in Africa and build direct linkages with the potential African business partners.
One would question the benefits to Zambia of hosting WEDF. The event will bring various business people together to discuss different business solutions both local and foreign. In line with this, creation of business linkages and connections is expected to take place. WEDF will serve as a podium for sharing many aspects of business industry with a view to helping policy makers refine their policy documents, in order to create an enabling business environment for businesses to thrive in the country.
For SMEs who will attend the business to business meetings, they will learn more on product packaging which is a prerequisite for standardisation and competitiveness at regional level. For those in agri-business, it will create an opportunity for market linkages for their products and potential for huge investments with other investors in the world. And during the exhibition, enterprises will showcase their capabilities in their production and obtain business orders for their products. The SME trade academy will expose SMEs to best business practices that will enable their products and services to be competitive in the local and international markets.
In terms of tourism, the forum will provide participants with an opportunity to sample tourist packages and know what Zambia is able to offer in this sector. A visit to the mighty Victoria Falls in Livingstone should be a must. So far, the Ministry of Tourism and Zambia Tourism Agency have advertised various tourism packages to participants. This is one of the post-events of WEDF.
The hospitality industry has not been left out, they will experience a spill-over effect and create employment for those in the transport, restaurant and hostels businesses. Since, communication within and outside the country, service providers and financial institutions will also have their business boost due to various personal and business transactions.
Without any doubt, hosting of such an event will raise the profile of Zambia and prospect for the world to see what Zambia has in terms of export potential.
The author is public relations officer, Ministry of Commerce, trade and Industry.
Analysis: GODFRIDAH CHANDA