AFCFTA : We cannot ignore our domestic markets – Mr. Francis Anatogu

  • Says Nigerian market accounts for 11% imports in Africa

(By Udeme Clement):

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters and Secretary, National Action Committee on African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Mr. Francis Anatogu, has emphasised the need to develop Nigerian domestic market in readiness for AFCFTA.

He made this assertion while delivering his keynote address, at the 3rd Annual Lecture and Award programme, with the theme ,’Assessing Nigeria’s Preparedness to Maximize the Gains of AfCFTA’, organised by Primetime Reporters in Lagos.

He said; “As we are trying to figure out from AfCFTA perspective which product and services we should focus on; we cannot ignore our domestic markets.

“Our domestic market accounts for about 11 percent Africa’s total imports. Trading internationally means you comply with domestic rules and then comply with the external rules. So, it is easier to comply with domestic rules.

“Also, we need to create the demand for what we produce locally. That for us, is the foundation market for AfCFTA.
We need to consume what we produce and start exporting.
90 percent of the goods will be liberalised, which means duty is waived. This will happen over a period of ten years for us in ECOWAS. So, it is not going to happen overnight”.

He continued; “The second aspect is that for your product to be called AfCFTA good, it needs to meet the rules of origin. The rule of origin is nothing other than local content of what you are producing. If you do not meet the local content requirement, it will not be accepted.

“Something else to bear in mind is that with AfCFTA, it is actually not Nigerian content but African content. For example, If you make 20 percent in South Africa and bring the components here and add another 20 percent, it is counted as 40 percent because 20 percent is from another country in Africa.

“Yes, we support our African countries; it is for us to make sure that for 40 percent local content, we can get 30 percent here and get 10 percent from others. It is also important to know that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. So, we start from where we are today”.

Mr Anatogu added; “It will take some time for Nigeria to be fully ready for AfCFTA, which kicked off in January 1, 2021. Are we ready to replace 85 percent of Nigeria’s export revenue ?
So, we can’t be ready in one day”.

He pointed out; “We are all Nigerians. Only few people take mortgage to build a house.
You must be very strong to take a mortgage of 20 percent to build a house. What we do is, if we buy blocks, every year, we keep building blocks, five to ten years, you see the house. That is my analogy for AfCFTA because a lot of things must be done.

“It is not only the infrastructure that requires work; our mindset requires work, because even the way we advocate for change needs to change as well.”

According to him; “AfCFTA’ is a game changer for Nigeria.
Close to ten years, oil production was constant but the capital income had been dropping because Nigeria’s population is growing as seen in unemployment figures.

“We are in an era where global warming and Paris accord are threat to the product that contributes about 80 to 85 percent of our foreign revenue earnings. So, we actually need to do something. We have to diversify, whether AfCFTA or any other thing, We need to find something to augment or replace oil revenue. If we don’t export oil, we have to export something else.

“So, when you think AfCFTA, think first Africa. When you finish thinking Africa, come back and think export because we need export for us to survive beyond the oil world. As we know, many countries now have laws, commitment and policy to move away from oil by 2030.

“As such, AfCFTA is like a practice ground for what we must do as a country for our long term survival. For oil, you can go to Rivers, Bayelsa or Cross River and you drill to find oil. someone sits on a tanker and it goes and the money is paid. You don’t even contribute much to the investment. For instance Shell and other firms bring the money, they drill the well, they build the facilities. We only take our own share of the oil.

“For non-oil, it is different. We are talking about finance, Small and Medium Enterorises (SMEs), and mega companies. We will have to find the money, bear the risk, find the customers and transport the products because we are competing with the rest of the world.

So, it is difficult and that is where we are coming from. We are coming from an era where we were not really trading.
A lot of people are trading, moving from Nigeria to Niger, Chad and so on. Some people are coming from Central African Republic to buy from our market here, but we are now talking big time trade.”

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