By Lydia Ngwakwe
Lagos, Jan. 29, 2021 Mr Francis Anatogu, Executive Secretary, National Action Committee on African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), has urged Nigeria to make itself Africa’s premier choice in a number of products and services, if it is considering growing its exports.
Anatogu gave tha advice at an SME talk with the topic, “African Continental Free Trade Area: Unlocking the Benefits to SMEs “, organised virtually, by Wema Bank Plc, on Friday.
According to him, there are huge opportunities in the African market that the country can take advantage of.
He said if the country could take just 10 per cent of the market, it would double its current oil export to the world.
” So, for us in Nigeria, when we think of AFCFTA, it’s about growing our export to Africa in general, but we also know from the studies that we have done that for us to be able to do that, we must become premier choice in a number of products.
“We must be known for certain products and services,” he said.
The committee scribe believed that it was the time for Nigeria to use the opportunity provided by AFCFTA to create all kinds of jobs.
He said that the time now was about preparing for a post-oil economy.
Anatogu said that the country had the biggest domestic market in Africa and a “very resourceful ” population which gave it an edge.
“In fact, the question to ask is which is our biggest edge? Is it the oil or our people? We have got very knowledgeable, talented population that we can rely on. We have the can-do spirit!,” he said.
Analogue said that the AFCFTA offered a platform for the country to go and demand access for its businesses.
On his part, Mr Taiwo Oyedele, the Fiscal Policy Partner and West Africa Tax Leader, urged SMEs to take advantage of the possibilities of the AFCFTA treaty, as it would affect everyone.
“Don’t think until you start manufacturing cars before you can play within the AFCFTA!
“The thing SMEs should do now is to have a positive mindset; our market is big, everybody is looking to take over our market.
“So, once we open up the gate, they will flood our market and we will all go to hell.
“Another mindset says Nigeria is the biggest market – 200 milion, but Africa is bigger, there is an extra one billion people that you had no access to before now; now you have access to them. That is a positive mindset,” he said.
He urged them to seek knowledge, adding that there were about seven per cent of SMEs in Nigeria that were involved in export one way or the other.
Oyedele also advised them to understand what the law says and look for where opportunities are.
Besides, he urged them to think ahead and take actions by looking for connections within Africa.
Mr Adeola Ajai, Head, Global Trade and Correspondent Banking, Wema Bank, said SMEs could harness the benefits of the treaty through the partnership the bank had with Bank of Africa.
He said that the bank was well positioned to anchor their businesses under the law.
“What do I mean by that? Wema Bank already has relationship with anchor Africa group, and what this does is to give you a platform to anchor and expand your business into the African region.
“Currently, there are about 18 locations wherein you can come through this partnership with Wema Bank and we will anchor and showcase your businesses along those regions as the regions evolve and as many member nations sign on.
“In offering these services, we will also provide you business advisory that you need, whether as an SME or in the commercial business.
“Wema Bank is a relationship bank and it’s been existing for over 75 years, and we know all the locations, particularly where we have our strength,” Ajai said.