Egypt’s Minister of Trade and Industry Nevin Gamea announced the state’s continuing support for the ‘Aid for Trade’ Initiative for the Arab States programme in its second phase (AfTIAS 2.0 ), stressing that all efforts will be made to ensure the success of the program in promoting trade in the Arab world, which is still at low levels compared to other regional trading blocs across the globe.
Gamea made her comments during a virtual roundtable organised by the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), which was organised by high-level speakers from the governments of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Kingdom of Spain, the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Trade Center (ITC), and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on trade in the Arab region and new business opportunities in the post-COVID era.
During the event, the ITFC’s CEO and Chairman of the AfTIAS programme board, Hani Sonbol, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown more clearly the importance of AfTIAS 2.0, calling on donor countries and international development organisations to join the programme and contribute to the formidable task of supporting the most vulnerable and fragile countries in the Arab region.
Mahmoud Mohi El-Din, the executive director of Arab Countries at the IMF, spoke on how AfTIAS 2.0 could enhance stability in fragile Arab countries, providing an overview of the economic and market landscape of the Arab region.
Mohi El-Din stressed that trade could lead to improving future prospects through food security, employment, domestic revenue, and resilience.
Majid Al-Qasabi, the Saudi minister of trade and chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority for Foreign Trade, reviewed the role of Saudi Arabia in establishing the Aid for Trade Initiative for Arab States (AfTIAS) in its first phase, reiterating the importance of promoting trade in the Arab world.
He added that the Kingdom is looking forward to optimising the second phase of the AfTIAS program, with the aim of enhancing the competitiveness of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), to raise the sector’s GDP contribution from 20 percent to 35 percent in line with the strategic goal of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision.
The AfTIAS 2.0 program was designed by the ITFC in 2020 in consultation with beneficiary countries, regional, and international organisations, following the successful completion of the first phase of the programme in 2018, putting 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 mitigating migration challenges.
The programme will be formally launched in June 2021 and will run for five years.