Official Launching of the Second Phase of the Aid for Trade Initiative for Arab States (AfTIAS 2.0) Program

AfTIAS 2.0 aims to Support Economic Integration and Job Creation in Arab Countries

27 October 2021, Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) launched the second phase of the Aid for Trade Initiative for Arab States (AfTIAS 2.0) Program at the Headquarters of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The main objective of AfTIAS 2.0, which will be implemented over five years, is to support the environment for international trade in the Arab region, create job opportunities, and contribute to sustainable development in the region. The program also aims to remove non-tariff barriers and enhance the inclusivity of women, youth and disadvantaged groups who have been hardest hit by the Covid pandemic.

The launching ceremony included the signing of grant agreements to support the program, with the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD) providing $1 million each.

Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO ITFC and Chairman of the Board of AfTIAS expressed his gratitude for the support that this initiative has received, which has endorsed the call by leaders at the Arab Economic Summit in Beirut 2019 for the ITFC to continue its support to the Arab Region.

Eng. Sonbol also expressed his sincere thanks and appreciation to the League of Arab States for the support provided to the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group to activate the program, and the contribution to its successful launch. He also expressed his gratitude to donors who have responded to the call of the Arab Summit and provided the financial support for the AfTIAS 2.0 program. The donors include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Mauritania, AOAD, IsDB, ITFC and the Trade Development Fund.

Through the Aid for Trade Initiative for Arab States (AfTIAS 2.0) program, Arab countries aim to adopt projects to help achieve goals around those pillars:

  • Trade Development and Competitiveness Facility – to 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.
  • Inclusivity Support Facility – to focus on the disadvantaged groups to address issues related to poverty alleviation through trade, women empowerment, youth participation in trade and supporting internally displaced persons.
  • Regional Investment – to support and reinforce the capacities of government administrations in the Arab Region to prepare bankable proposals for investment financing of trade infrastructure projects.
  • Reverse Linkage (IsDB Mechanism) – to support the Arab States in developing the internal capacity of their ministries and agencies, NGOs, Chambers of Commerce and other key organizations with respect to aspects of trade, competitiveness and inclusivity.
  • Research & Surveys Facility:- To provide the research necessary to support the Program in key areas, in addition to supporting NGOs in Arab countries to help them prepare high quality projects.

AfTIAS 2.0 will also provide a platform for economic recovery to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade in the Arab region, with a focus on unemployment issues, new trade barriers, difficulties in engaging in regional value chains, scarcity of investment financing and digitization of trade.

During his message, H.E Dr. Muhammad AlJasser, Chairman, IsDB Group, said: “The Islamic Development Bank Group views the AfTIAS 2.0 program with great optimism and hope. With its new phase, the Program aspires to take into account the needs of Arab countries that have arisen as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.”

Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO ITFC and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the AfTIAS 2.0 program, pointed out the importance of the initiative, saying: “Our meeting today is the culmination of more than two years of preparation, starting with the design of the AfTIAS 2.0 program and its unanimous approval by all parties. He added, “Trade is the main engine for economic growth, promoting development and attracting investment, and is a vehicle for supporting and developing relations between countries. Therefore, through AfTIAS 2.0 we call for joint action plan to support Arab countries development goals and help them recover from the impact of the pandemic. This is possible though our partners within and outside the Arab region to join this important program.”

From his end, Dr. Kamal Hassan Ali, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs of the League of Arab States, on behalf of H.E the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said: “AfTIAS 2.0 is aligned with the main objective of the League of Arab States, which is to raise economic integration among Arab countries and improve income levels – reducing poverty and unemployment and making Arab economies more resilient to economic turmoil.” He also added that, “the second phase provides a new platform and a practical strategy to unlock the potential and resources that the region possesses and works to address the challenges imposed on us by the pandemic.”

It is noteworthy that the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) supervised the execution of the first phase of the AfTIAS program between 2013 and 2018, with the aim of supporting trade in the Arab region. During the first phase of this program, 28 projects were implemented for the benefit of 19 Arab countries.

In early 2019, the IsDB Group responded to the request of H.E the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States to activate the decision of the Arab Economic Summit held in Beirut in 2019, which called on ITFC on behalf of the IsDB Group to prepare and launch the second phase of the AfTIAS Program, in cooperation with the League of Arab States and its member states. Based on this mandate, between 2019 and 2020, ITFC prepared and approved the AfTIAS 2.0, with the aim of creating an environment conducive to international trade in the Arab region to make it more inclusive and effective to contribute to creating job opportunities and achieving sustainable development.