Chris Ndibe, a retired General Manager with the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and Managing Editor Commerce Today Magazine was unanimously elected the Executive Secretary Africa Free Zone Association (AFZA), at the just concluded second AFZA Convention held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The three day convention attracted participants from 26 countries representing Free Zone experts, policy makers, public sector, the World Bank, foreign experts, multi-nationals, investors, the media and other stakeholders. The conference with the theme: The Role of Free Zones in Achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa was declared open by the Prime Minister of Tanzania, His Excellency, Mizengo Pinda.
As the Executive Secretary AFZA, Ndibe becomes the first to that position as well as serving as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Association and has the responsibilities of taking the association to greater heights to the benefit of members in managing the secretariat and liaising with multinational agencies like: World Bank, UNIDO and also with AU and the regional blocks of Africa.
AFZA is a non-governmental, non-profit, non-religious, non-ethnical and non-political organization established since 2004 in Cape Town, South Africa to promote Africa’s competitiveness and foster rapid economic growth through Free Zone schemes. The association comprises of all types of Investment Promotion schemes such as Export Processing Zones (EPZs), Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Free Trade Zones (FTZs), Industrial Development Zones (IDZs), Free Ports (FPs) Industrial Parks (IPs) and other related scheme to assist the operators of the scheme in the continent (Africa). This Association is also a member of the World Free Zones Associations (WFZA).
Before his election to this position, Ndibe was the Secretary General of the association and has helped to organize members under the World Free Zones in London, Paris and Kuala Lumpur in 2005, 2006, and 2007 respectively before members resolved to hold the first convention on the soil of the continent in 2008 in Abuja.
Chris Ndibe is now a Free Zone consultant after his retirement from the government service last year. He is the Author of the first published book on Free Zones in Africa “Understanding Free Trade Zone: The Nigeria Experience”. The book is well distributed all over the continent and a reference material for Free Zone operators.
At the opening ceremony, His Excellency, Mizenfo Pinda called on African countries to do away with the tradition of exporting primary commodities but rather process them to fetch better price abroad. “African countries will never develop without industrialization. Developed countries in the world started with the agricultural revolution by adding value to their agricultural produce. This should be our way forward”, he said.
Pinda said it is only through Free Trade Zones that African countries can make it to industrialization and that the continent is full of resources, some of which are yet to be tapped.
At the convention, the new Executive Secretary delivered a paper: “Modeling Free Trade Zones on the Comparative Advantage in Achieving MDGs”. In his paper, Ndibe maintained that modeling of FTZs against comparative advantage will assist the scheme development which will in turn take African countries closer to achieving MDGs and lay the foundation for robust economic growth.
He concluded by saying that as Africa economies grow, and integrate into the global economy, international trade and domestic resources are expected to contribute on increasing share of development financing, provided that countries implement active polices and comprehensive strategies for increasing competitiveness and participation in regional and international trade.
Speaking to journalists after his election, Ndibe said “I am elated with this latest development. I will put my best as I have always done, to make Free Zones an acceptable public policy that will be recognized and adopted by various governments in Africa. Again I see the elevation as a form of appreciation by the AFZA members based on my past performance. Indeed we give glory to the Almighty God”.