The Afreximbank Structured Trade Finance Seminar has become a landmark in the annual African trade finance events schedule. Taking place in Casablanca this year, the event gathered over 200 participants from all corners of the African geographical footprint. This year, participants ranged from institutions as diverse as commercial and multilateral banks, insurance brokers and underwriters, forfaiting companies and fund managers, as well as a good number of representatives from different governmental entities.

Having been set up in November 2017, the ITFA Africa Regional Committee (ARC) has now claimed its rightful place as an influential force in the African trade finance landscape, with its members actively engaged in attaining the five strategic goals that underpinned the committee’s creation, amongst which disseminating trade finance education lies prominently. As such, aside from taking centre stage in a number of events organised by third parties (such as those organised by our supportive partners at GTR in Africa), the ARC has already managed to present a number of its own initiatives, such as the ARC inaugural trade finance seminar held in Nairobi in May, and also within the annual ITFA conference that took place in Cape Town this year.

The ARC was thus naturally delighted to have been challenged by the Afreximbank to spearhead a half-day section of this year’s Structured Trade Finance Seminar. More so, as this truly recognised ITFA’s evolution from being a forfaiting/distribution association, to becoming the fully fledged Global Trade Finance Industry Body, representing its Member’s interests across a myriad of sub-disciplines in the trade finance world (with a global reach).

The 200 plus participants at Afreximbank’s 2018 seminar had therefore the opportunity to interact with a strong ITFA ARC delegation, which also proudly included the ITFA Board Member and Chairman of the ITFA Fintech Committee, Andre Casterman.

Our session started with Duarte Pedreira (Head of Trade Finance for Crown Agents Bank and ITFA Board Member/ARC Chair) introducing ITFA and the ARC to participants, who showed a keen interest in finding out more about our activities and potentially joining our family.

Andre Casterman (who is also the CMO at INTIX) then took the floor and engaged participants in the world of Fintech in a trade finance context. Being a Fintech aficionado Andre quickly spread his enthusiasm for the impact Fintechs are having and will continue to have in modernising the trade finance industry, whilst making it a safer and more efficient space for market participants to interact.

Christian Karam (Director at Africa Trade Finance and ARC member) followed Andre on stage and took participants through ITFA’s origins in forfaiting and trade finance distribution, covering the topic in a rather effective manner whilst enhancing the importance of distribution as a tool to create liquidity for trade finance assets and to reach a wider range of participants.

Christian’s session was followed by a lunch break, further to which Duarte Pedreira returned to the stage, and, together with Simon Cook (Partner at Sullivan & Worcester and ARC Member), they engaged with participants so that they could understand how structuring and taking the right type of collateral and other measures would work in their favour in terms of creating trade finance facilities that better catered to both their clients’ needs, and to the characteristics of each transaction being considered. Duarte focused on the importance of doing due diligence over client’s cash conversion cycles as well as having a solid understanding of any operational funding gaps, leading to the identification of major strengths within the business and the assets (with a focus on movable assets) intrinsically linked to those strengths. Taking security over these assets (versus taking security over a pre-determined arbitrary set of sources of collateral – such as real estate assets) would, in his view, lead to a narrowing of the trade finance gap. Simon then focused on the more practical legal aspects of dealing with a different number of legal regimes and jurisdictions in the African continent and how that could impact the taking of, and the perfection and execution of, security within typical trade finance structures.

Finally, Alastair McLeod (Partner at JLT and ARC Member) took the floor as the last ARC representative on stage and took participants through the interesting world of Credit and Political Risk insurance. Ali’s mission was certainly not easy given the lack of penetration that the CPR insurance product has had in an African users context (i.e. due to licencing issues there are a relatively low amount of African Insureds buying CPR cover) where it has been growing nevertheless and he positioned not only the different types of markets, but the different types of cover available as well as the critical readiness that underwriters have shown in honouring claims in the past, therefore raising the industry’s profile and certainty within the users’ community.

All ITFA ARC members were therefore delighted with the opportunity to participate in this prestigious event and would like to express our gratitude to our hosts, ITFA and ARC member Afreximbank, who spared no efforts to make our contribution worthwhile. We already look forward to next year’s seminar!