The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation organized a virtual Round table 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) discussed the impact of COVID-19 on trade in the Arab region and creating 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
XX, March 2021 – 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 the keynote address of 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 of ITFC on AfTIAS Program.
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, believing in the importance of promoting trade in the Arab world. His Excellency also added, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking forward to making optimal use of the second phase of the AfTIAS program, with the aim of enhancing the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, to contribute to achieving the strategic goal of the Kingdom’s 2030 vision of increasing its contribution to the GDP from 20% to 35%.”
Dr. Nevin Gamea, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Arab Republic of Egypt, also expressed her gratitude for joining and supporting AfTIAS. Dr. Gamea also announced Egypt’s continuing support for the Program in its second phase, stressing that all efforts will be made to make this Program a success, on which there are great hopes for promoting trade in the Arab world, which are still at low levels compared to the rest of the regional blocs and groupings in the world.
Moreover, Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, Executive Director (Arab Countries), International Monetary Fund (IMF), spoke on how AfTIAS 2.0 could enhance stability in fragile Arab countries, and during his intervention he presented the economic and market updates overview on the Arab region and 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) shared with the gathering a fair assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on trade globally and in the Arab region in particular, highlighting the challenges being faced ; her address was followed by D.r Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade (ITC), also presented on business creation and ways to fast track internationalization for young entrepreneurs in Arab states in a post-covid context; and Ms. Maria Molina, Head of the Department of Cooperation with the Arab World and Asia, Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Kingdom of Spain who addressed the gathering on curbing migration through creation of decent jobs in Arab countries.
Speaking 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 the problems which the world faces today 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 attenuating migration pressures. The programme will be formally launched in June 2021 and run for five years.