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First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial inclusion services provider, sponsored the Africa International Trade Exhibition (A.I.T.E 2023), held on 21 and 22 September 2023 at the Hilton Hotel Midtown, New York, U.S.A. The event was themed “the imperatives of global trade for African SMEs as a game changer for the continent’s future prosperity”.


Woven into the fabric of society, with the rich heritage of being the premier Bank in West Africa, FirstBank’s sponsorship of the event reiterated its commitment to being the bank of first choice and financial gateway in supporting businesses to boost the growth and socio-economic development of the continent in today’s fast-evolving business landscape.


Notable personalities and dignitaries at the event include Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, Minister of Industry Trade and Investment and representative of Senator Bola Tinubu (GCFR), President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria; Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN, Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development of Nigeria; Dr Mariya Mahmoud, Minister of State Federal Capital Territory; His Excellency, Adeyinka Asekun, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada; Hon Abike Dabiri, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission; Ambassa Bolaji Akintemi, Director, Economic, Trade and Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria; Mr Olukayode Pitan, Managing Director, Bank of Industry; Mrs Kanayo Awani, Executive Vice President, Intra-African Trade, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank); Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank Group; Mr Oluwatosin Adewuyi, Executive Director, Corporate Banking, FirstBank and Mr Ini Ebong, Executive Director, Treasury and International Banking, FirstBank.


Tunde MacAlabi, Visioner of the African International Trade Exhibition project said “The AITE project is conceived to assist African SMEs to gain greater penetration in the North American market that has huge potentials.


The African American population in the US is 30 million strong, spending close to 1.2 trillion dollars as consumers.


The popularity of our afrobeat music, the ground that it is gaining in North America and the globe is remarkable. With this idea, pushing authentic African made products into the market to rise on the wave of the popularity of our music can diversify the sources of foreign exchange income that we accurately need in Nigeria and Africa.


Our effort is a complementary private sector driven initiative to help bridge the commercial gap to increase the commercial engagement between Nigeria, Africa and the USA.


Speaking at the event, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO of FirstBank Group said: “I am particularly delighted that this year’s theme beams the spotlight on a sector that can be referred to as the bedrock of Africa’s economic prosperity. Africa’s SME sector is also a good representation of the unyielding and resilient spirit of the African people in the face of many daunting challenges.”


With a vision to become “Africa’s Bank of First Choice”, FirstBank’s commitment to the development and economic transformation of the African continent is unwavering and we will continue to make the required investments to actualize this goal. I make bold to say that, in FirstBank, Africa has a dependable ally.


Indeed, it is the turn of Africa to rise, and FirstBank is strategically positioned to provide the required financial services support to the SME sector that will catalyze the next phase of Africa’s growth and development,” he concluded.


Representing Prof. Benedict Okey Oramah, President & Chairman,African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Mrs Kanayo Awani, Executive Vice President, Intra-African Trade, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) said “I am grateful to the African International Trade Exhibition (AITE) for the kind opportunity to participate in this event. I congratulate AITE for building this unique platform to rally global investments and policy support towards the attainment of the goals of the African Continental Free Trade Agreements. These activities of AITE are significant complements to Afreximbank’s trade facilitation agenda. We are therefore pleased to be associated with AITE and its activities.


We must continue to leverage the platforms created by the Bank and AITE to forge partnerships, share ideas and contribute to the growth and development of African SMEs to ensure that their potentials as the driving force for the transformation of the continent. As l like to say, the opportunity is now, and it has a shelf life.


Festus Keyamo, Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development of Nigeria noted that “the importance of the aviation sector in Nigeria and any country cannot be overemphasised. The gains of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) cannot be realized without a robust Aviation policy in Africa that will enhance the movement of goods and personnel across Africa.


We need to promote a robust Africa Aviation policy and find a way to liberalize the aviation sector within Africa.


I call on investors to come to Nigeria as the Aviation sector is the gateway for investment into the country, taking a cue from the speech of Mr. President yesterday to the world (during his address at the 78th Session of UN General Assembly), we are asking investors to come and partner with us as opportunities abound in Nigeria. We have the population, market, traffic and economy to support businesses.


Encouraging Nigerians in the diaspora to drive foreign direct investment into the country, Dr Uzoka-Anite, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment spoke on behalf of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu (GCFR), President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. She said “I enjoin Nigerians in the diaspora to invest in Nigeria. I know the spirit of being a Nigerian because I am one.


We are very prosperous, resilient, persistent, bold, audacious. We like to make decisions in our favour profitably. We are also very warm and welcoming. Galvanizing all these qualities and focus it back home will lead to us doing a whole lot.


The A.I.T.E 2023 Business, Trade, and Investment Summit convened business leaders, entrepreneurs and government functionaries from diverse sectors across Africa and the globe.


Held on the sidelines of the 78th Session of UN General Assembly (UNGA), the event promotes networking amongst think tanks whilst being a viable avenue for organisations to showcase cutting-edge products and services, thereby building valuable business relationships to drive economic advancement and cooperation beyond the African continent.