By Joan Odafe and Mariam Akande
For the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to achieve its goals and boost intra-African trade, deliberate efforts ensuring fair trade must endure, says Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Niyi Adebayo.
Adebayo emphasised fairness in his speech at the AfCFTA National Forum, which entered its second day on Friday in Lagos.
The Forum, themed: ‘Effective Implementation for Industrialisation and Inclusive Economic Development in Nigeria’ was co-organised by the Nigerian Government, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and in collaboration with the European Union (EU).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that other collaborators include the African Union (AU), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).
Adebayo said that President Muhammadu Buhari had always maintained that trade was very important to Nigeria and Africa, adding that fairness was key to success of multilateral agreements.
“Our vision for intra-African trade is that of free movement of made in Africa goods. That is, goods and services made locally with significant African content in terms of raw materials and value addition.
“Nigeria’s vision for the AfCFTA is, therefore, free and fair intra-Africa trade that creates economic growth, wealth for investors and businesses, jobs and prosperity for our citizens,” he said.
The Minister said that from the studies done so far, Nigeria had established that the AfCFTA could facilitate economic growth and diversification, through preferential access to Africa’s market for manufactured goods and services.
He, however, pointed out that this could only be realised through addition of new production capacity, retooling and upscaling existing businesses and assisting those sectors that would be negatively impacted to migrate to new areas.
Adebayo also harped on prioritising the resolution of the bottlenecks that hinder the competitiveness in production and trade, including hard infrastructure such as power and logistics as well as soft infrastructure such as policies, regulations.
He said that enforcement of trade rules, without compromising efforts on trade facilitation and ease of doing business, was crucial to AfCFTA.
According to him, the Federal Government is determined to fully implement the terms of the AfCFTA and uphold its commitments on trade and regional integration.
“However, we will not allow smuggling and other predatory trade practices to continue unchecked, as it undermines our economic development efforts and destroys local industries, leading to job losses.
“We also will not allow rogue traders to manipulate the rules of origin and disguise goods from outside the continent as made in Africa so as to qualify for duty-free passage,” Adebayo said.
On the other hand, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, urged Nigeria to discover new opportunities for diversification and complementary actions to overcome her existing economic constraints.
Kallon noted that Nigeria was one of the countries expected to experience the largest absolute expansion and the implementation of the AfCFTA would be a game changer at stimulating intra-African trade.
According to him, Nigeria’s GDP and exports would increase significantly toward African sub-regions, outside West Africa, with most impressive expansions to Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Other countries include Botswana, Cameroon, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Kallon said that Nigeria’s exports to its African partners would be most pronounced in agricultural and food sectors, followed by industrial sector, which will offer invaluable opportunities to industrialise through trade.
”Agricultural sector provides such an opportunity for Nigeria, and with some value addition, it can really become a great producer in the region.
“Nigeria’s exports to the rest of Africa will increase by more than 15 per cent in fishery; wearing apparel leather; wood and papers; electronics; vehicles and transport equipment; and machinery,” he said.
Kallon listed other such fields as meat and poultry, dairy products, cereals, plant-based fibres, fruits, vegetables, beverage, tobacco and livestock.
He, however, said the increase in exports to West Africa would not result in significant market access improvement with partners, considering the already quasi free market within ECOWAS Customs Union.
Kallon explained that he had no doubt that Nigeria would be able to contribute positively toward AfCFTA Agreement. (NAN)