By Chinenye Offor
Africa made history with the formation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement which negotiation commenced on June 15, 2015 in Johannesburg with the Treaty signed on March 21, 2018 in Kigali.
It was expected that trading activities under this framework would commence in July 2020 but the global pandemic and shutdown of national economies frustrated the plan.
A World Bank report suggests that the manufacturing sector is to experience the highest participation under the AfCFTA.
Thus, countries with an improved manufacturing sector and high production capacity are more poised for this comparative advantage.
Officials of the National Action Committee on AFCFTA had engagement in no fewer than six states so far across the country with a view to educate, sensitise and mobilise the states to ensure efficient implementation of the AfCFTA.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, said that the opportunity presented by the AfCFTA agreement include access to a single market for Made-in-Africa goods with a population of 1.2 billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 3.4 trillion dollars.
Adebayo stressed that the main objective of the agreement is to liberalise trade so that African countries can trade more among themselves and through that integrate African economies.
He noted that the AfCFTA would stimulate Nigeria’s export diversification by providing preferential access to Nigeria products and services to the huge African market which currently sources 85 per cent of imports from outside the continent.
The minister also said that the AfCFTA would eliminate tariffs on 90 per cent of tradable goods over five years for developing countries and 10 years for least developed countries.
Adebayo said that the agreement provided a platform to ensure that every product has origin, while assuring that Nigeria would not become a dumping ground for unidentified products from other African countries.
“The rules of origin are a criteria where participating countries must source their products locally. There is also provision to guard against trans-shipment of products outside African market.
He added that working with state governments would help to identify products of comparative advantage to ensure that all the various programmes and initiatives on exports would add value to enable it to go into African market.
“Since the bulk of Nigeria’s wealth are domiciled in the states, if Nigeria is to stand any chance of making something out of AfCFTA, it must as a matter of necessity domesticate it at the state and grassroots levels.
“It is for this reason that the National Action Committee on AfCFTA has commenced a nationwide sensitisation across states to ensure that each state finds its voice in the overall vision and mission of AfCFTA,’’ Adebayo said.
Also, the Secretary of National Action Committee on AfCFTA/Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters, Mr Francis Anatogu, said that AfCFTA came to grow the African market like the intra- European market.
According to him, the EU intra-trade is about 65 per cent while Africa is about 15 per cent.
He added that AfCFTA is about growing trade in Africa and they are working in every state to develop what they are going to sell in Africa.
Anatogu said that its mandate was also to facilitate the ratification of the phase one agreement and implement safeguards in the AfCFTA phase one agreements.
He also said that it was to champion programmes to resolve the critical continental-level challenges, and conclude ongoing trade reform programmes at ECOWAS such as the adoption of a common trade policy.
According to him, the committee’s duty is also to facilitate productivity and capacity enhancement programmes on priority products and services and facilitate growth of export trade capabilities of Nigerians.
He, however, noted that while addressing the products and services for exports, issues of competitiveness and infrastructure; power, transportation, trade barriers, others would be tackled.
“We improve coordination between trade, fiscal and monetary policies, facilitate enforcement of domestic and international trade rules, facilitate amendments of Acts and enact new bills as may be required.
“With the above in mind, we started out by establishing the requirements to safeguard Nigeria’s economy from the threats identified,” he said.
At the sensitisation programme in Asaba, Delta state, Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa assured that his administration would partner with the Federal Government towards domesticating the AfCFTA agreement.
Okowa stated that leveraging on the AFCFTA agreement would help create jobs, increase productivity and boost the nation’s economy.
The governor also said that the more states were involved in the trade agreement the more it would boost exports and increase internally generated revenue.
He pointed out that there were bottlenecks associated with export trading and urged the Federal Government to work towards eliminating the constraints to encourage more traders.
“We hope that the issue of power supply will be addressed because it leads to a high cost of production and it will affect producers in such a way that their products cannot compete favourably.
“We are glad that this relationship is coming at this time because it will actually stimulate and expand production thereby creating room for greater employment.
“When more and more people get employed there is less insecurity because when you take off more people from the unemployment market, you have fewer people available for criminal tendencies,” he stated.
Stakeholders had maintained that AfCFTA offered Nigeria, as the largest economy in Africa, and one of the leading intra-African trading nations, huge export opportunities.
They advocated for more awareness and sensitisation on how exporters should deal with bottlenecks in order to leverage on the agreement as well as urged government to eliminate the constraints in order to boost economic productivity and growth