About AfTIAS

Who we are?

The Aid for Trade (AfT) initiative was one of the most important development-related outcomes of the 2005 World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference that was held in Hong Kong. It targets developing countries, particularly Least-developed Countries (LDCs), to strengthen their productive capacities, trade-related infrastructure capacity to compete in regional and global markets.

This global initiative was launched to reinforce commitments by both multilateral and bilateral development partners to prioritize trade capacity development support and by beneficiaries to adopt trade reforms as a key pillar for sustainable growth and poverty reduction strategies.

Since 2005, the AfT initiative has taken off in most of the world’s developing regions, with a phenomenal increase in aid for trade flows, technical assistance, and capacity support, as reported by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). But the Arab region (22 states) has remained largely on the sidelines. Nonetheless, these countries share the same challenges as many developing countries from other regions in the world.

To address this situation, the Qatar and Egypt Permanent Missions to the WTO, UN Office and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, requested the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB) Group to develop an AfT Road Map for the Arab region.

For the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), member of the IsDB Group: AfT initiative is a partnership between recipient countries, partner countries, and international financial institutions to address the trade-related constraints identified by our Member Countries notably the least developed ones.

The AfT work program was established at the Hong Kong Ministerial in 2005, identifying six categories of AfT: Trade policy, trade development, trade-related infrastructure, building productive capacity, adjustment costs, and other trade needs.

From this perceptive and since 2010, the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), a member of the IsDB Group, initiated an extensive consultation process through a number of meetings including in Beirut, Geneva, Cairo, and Doha, to discuss and reach a consensus on the main elements of an Aid-for-Trade Road Map for the Arab region. Several organizations and partners participated in this consultative process, notably the League of Arab States (LAS), Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization (AIDMO), Arab Union of Land Transport (AULT), Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), the Arab Regional Accreditation Commission (ARAC), WTO, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), International Trade Centre (ITC), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Based on inputs from this consultation process a program document on the “Aid for Trade Initiative for the Arab States (AfTIAS) Program was prepared in 2012.

In this regard, it is worth mentioning that Program was designed to provide a framework for placing Arab countries and the region on a sound trajectory of trade reform under the auspices of the AfT initiative.

From this perspective, the 1st Phase of the AfTIAS Program (AfTIAS 1.0) was designed and launched by the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) on behalf of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group in November 2013.

AfTIAS 1.0 Program:

AfTIAS 1.0 Program is a multi-donor, multi-country, and multi-agency program, aiming to “foster Arab trade through enhancing enterprise competitiveness and facilitating trade”.

AfTIAS 1.0 was developed as a response to a request from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Arab Group in Geneva. The program was originally designed to run from 2014-2016, but this was later extended to December 2018.

AfTIAS Phase 1 (2014-2018) had a US$ 10.5 million budget, including in-kind contributions by the ITFC estimated at about US$ 5 million. It was supported by seven donors and five UN agencies and four other executing institutions contributed to implementing a total of 28 projects in 19 countries.

The AfTIAS 1.0 program is a partnership between 22 Arab Countries (Members of the League of Arab States “LAS”), five United Nations Agencies along with other four Executing Institutions, and seven Donors.

According to the AfTIAS 1.0 P document, the program was arranged around three outcomes:
1. Outcome 1: Enhance regional competitiveness through Trade policy reform and Trade Support Institution efficiency
2. Outcome 2: Strengthen trade supply-side and value chain integration
3. Outcome 3: Strengthen regional and sub-regional organizations’ capacity to foster trade integration

At the end of this phase in 2018, ITFC has commissioned an independent evaluation to assess the effectiveness of the program and to draw lessons learned from its implementation.

In this context, the last AfTIAS Board meeting held in January 2019, expressed its satisfaction with the outcomes of the Program’s evaluation and welcomed also the decision of the Arab Economic Summit held in Beirut (20/01/2019), calling upon ITFC to prepare the 2nd Phase of AfTIAS in cooperation with the League of Arab States (LAS) and all the Arab countries (22).

AfTIAS 2.0 Program:

  1. Design of AfTIAS 2.0 :

Based on this decision, the design for AfTIAS 2.0 Program was undertaken from July 2019 to February 2020 and then updated in March 2020 to take into account the new requirements arising from the COVID-19 pandemic impact on the economies of the region.

The design of AfTIAS 2.0 takes into account the key lessons learned identified in the evaluation of the AfTIAS 1.0, in particular, firstly, the need for a strong consultative process during the design phase, the need for a clear theory of change with measurable indicators of success to be developed during the design process. Secondly, AfTIAS 2.0 should be tightly focussed on areas where it would have the greatest impact. Thirdly, the need for adequate financial and human resources to manage any further iteration of AfTIAS was also highlighted.

The AfTIAS 2.0 Program Document presents a summary of the problem analysis, the objectives tree derived from it, the prioritisation of program interventions undertaken based on the need for focus given anticipated budget limitations but also the wide geographical scope and vastly heterogeneous needs of Arab countries, as well as the proposed implementation structures and modalities.

2. AfTIAS 2.0 Program Objectives:

AfTIAS 2.0 is designed as a five-year program. Its development objective of which is to “enhance the environment for international trade in the Arab region by making it more efficient and inclusive, thereby creating opportunities for employment and contributing to sustainable development”.

More specifically, AfTIAS 2.0 Program aims at :
1) increasing intra-regional trade through the removal of market access barriers,
2) increasing the role of Arab states in global value chains, and
3) ensuring that the benefits of trade are shared more inclusively across all population groups, including, in particular, vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, and others.

The following figure indicates the priority interventions which were derived from a comprehensive objectives tree with 8 key results chains responding to the main identified problems faced by Arab traders. The prioritisation of the results chains is a critical element of the programme implementation strategy as it allows AfTIAS 2.0 Program to focus its resources. A careful analytical process was undertaken with each of the eight results chains undergoing scoring against a range of pre-defined factors which were weighted to reflect their importance.

The anticipated minimum budget of the program, considering the estimated operational costs but also the large geographical scope, is US$ 40 million.

A detailed budget has been prepared, along with a resource mobilisation strategy (developed as a separate document).

  3. AfTIAS 2.0 Facilities: Area of Focus:

In terms of the implementation approach, AfTIAS 2.0 will operate on the basis of five main facilities:

  1. The Trade Development and Competitiveness Facility will address specific issues related to the removal of non-tariff barriers, regional trade promotion, encouraging enterprise innovation, increasing the technological readiness of business in the region, or supporting access to trade finance.
  2. The Inclusivity Support Facility will focus on the support of different disadvantaged groups – the poor, women, youth, and refugees, and internally displaced persons – to participate in value chains and international trade. Actions eligible for support under this Facility will cover a wide spectrum of different types of innovative interventions proposed by facilitator organisations to encourage greater inclusivity of trade. Actions will be monitored and assessed to determine their effectiveness in increasing inclusivity in the Arab region with a view to encouraging replication of successful approaches.
  3. The Regional Investment Proposal Preparation Facility (RIPPF) will support and reinforce the capacities of government administrations in the Arab region to prepare bankable proposals for investment financing of trade infrastructure projects. Examples include pre-feasibility studies, feasibility studies, systems design, social and environmental impact analyses, cost-benefit analysis, and the preparation of tender documents. The RIPPF will provide funding for technical assistance to support government entities to prepare detailed investment proposals.
  4. The Reverse Linkage Facility will make use of a technical cooperation mechanism enabled by IsDB whereby institutions in Arab countries exchange their knowledge, expertise, technology, and resources to develop their capacities and devise solutions for their autonomous development. Reverse linkage will be used to support the Arab states in developing the internal capacity of their ministries and agencies, NGOs, Chambers of Commerce, and other key organisations with respect to aspects of the trade, competitiveness, and inclusivity.
  5. The Research and Surveys Facility will provide, first, the research necessary for the operation of AfTIAS 2.0 by providing essential data to allow evidence-based decision-making. Second, it will support the development of center [s] of excellence in areas critical to AfTIAS 2.0. And third, it will provide support to NGOs within the region as well as governments of less-developed Arab countries to help them prepare high-quality applications under the different open calls.

  4. How AfTIAS 2.0 Program works?

The AfTIAS 2.0 implementation structure is based on the following main elements:

  1. An AfTIAS Trust Fund, to administer donor contributions and AfTIAS 2.0 expenditures;
  2. The AfTIAS Board, the main governance and oversight body;
  3. An AfTIAS Secretariat in charge of AfTIAS 2.0 management; and
  4. National Focal Points (NFP) in each League of Arab States member.

A monitoring and evaluation framework has been developed for AfTIAS 2.0. Program performance measurement will be facilitated by a complete set of performance indicators with fully established baselines and end-of-program targets.

How we work

Since 2005, the AfT initiative has taken off in most of the world’s developing regions, with a phenomenal increase in aid for trade flows, technical assistance and capacity support, as reported by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). But the Arab region s (22 states) have remained largely on the sidelines. Nonetheless, these countries share the same challenges as many developing countries from other regions in the world. To address this situation, the Qatar and Egypt Permanent Missions to the WTO, UN Office and Specialized Institutions in Geneva requested the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB Group) to develop an AfT Road Map for the Arab region. In that respect, and since 2012, the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), on behalf the IsDB Group, has offered its full support to prepare and launch the Aid for Trade Initiative for the Arab States (AfTIAS) Program in the Arab Region. The design of the 1st Phase of this Program (AfTIAS 1.0 Program) was ensured by ITFC, in cooperation with five UN Agencies (ILO, ITC, UNCTAD, UNDP and UNIDO) in addition to the League of Arab States (LAS), the Permanent Missions of Arab Countries in Geneva, the Arab Regional Organizations as well as stakeholders from within and outside the region.

Board Member

Mr. Basel As’Ad Alhussien Senior Manager, Advisory Services
Trade Development Fund (TDFD) / International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC)
Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol Chief Executive Officer, ITFC
Chairman of AfTIAS Program Board
Ambassador Ali bin Ibrahim al-Malki Assistant Secretary General for Economic Affairs League of Arab States (LAS)
Prof. Ibrahim Adam El Dukheri Director General
Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD)
Mr. Saqer Abdullah Almoqbel Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the World Trade Organization, Coordinator of the Arab Group at the World Trade Organization
Mr. Abdulmohsen Al-Khayal Director Manager of the Saudi Export Program
Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) (Member)
Dr. Mona Al Gerf Advisor Ministry of Planning and Economic Development
Arab Republic of Egypt
Mr. Elhadi Bakir Secretary General Ministry of Trade and Export Promotion People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
Mr. Mohamed Lemine Tar Entrusted with a mission in the office of the Minister of Finance
Ministry of Finance
Islamic Republic of Mauritania
Eng. Nasser Al Thekair General Manger
Trade and Business Development
International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC)
Mr. Imed Drine Lead Economist
Regional Cooperation and Integration Department
Islamic Development Bank (IsDB)