Nigeria yet to realize the benefits of AfCFTA
By Asuquo Nuwak
Nigeria’s chances of benefiting from AfCFTA is slim as enlightenment campaign and readiness to educate critical stakeholders is very low.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Mac- Manuel Global Logistics and vice-president of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) Mr Emmanuel Emeka Enwelu, who was the Guest
Speaker at the roundtable discussion, organized by MAJAN, wondered why such new trade regime should be kept in secret.
He noted that AfCFTA ought to have been on the lips of every Nigerian like covid-19 is, due to its important to boost intra African trade and deepen economic integration of African countries.
Report has shown that Nigeria’s border closure has threatened free trade across the region and a breach of protocol on free movement of good s, services and people established by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to which Nigeria belongs and in which it has significance political and economic influence.
Furthermore, the border closure, vigorously defended by Nigeria as being in its national interest, is against the spirit of the AfCFTA which is aimed at removing barrier of trade and promote the free flow of goods, services and people across the continent.
Emeka observed that Nigeria has not undertaken a wide range of readiness interventions to prepare Nigerian business to benefit from AfCFTA agreement.
The speakers who applauded MAJAN for taking the initiative to hold a roundtable discussion on AfCFTA equally called on regulatory agencies, stakeholders as well as corporate organisations in the maritime Industry to give MAJAN adequate support to effectively continue in its enlightenment campaign exercise.
Comrade Emeka who said he was impressed by the level of the reports and enlightenment MAJAN is giving to the industry, commended the president of Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN), Comrade Ray yUgochukwu for his visionary leadership.
He said for anyone following developments in maritime Industry, there can be no question that more than ever before our stakeholders are beginning to accord MAJAN the importance it deserves.
Forwarder Francis Omotosho, the Guest Lecturer, who is also the Registrar of NAGAFF Academy, in his address, succinctly captured the essence of regional trade agreements which changes according to the level of commitment and arrangement among member countries.
It is worthy of note that the trade agreement comes with internal rules such as removal of trade barriers, free movement of goods and services across the region while establishing Continental Customs Union which member countries must follow.
Report has shown that member countries has to reduce trade barriers to enhance seamless cargo clearance while free import and export resources must be allowed.
Under the agreement, member countries have to adopt a set of economic policies and use of one currency. Still, the AfCFTA agreement seeks to encourage regional integration and protection of investors who want to invest in developing countries against political risk.
However, it is heartwarming to note that AfCFTA has sustainable economic benefits which include inrease in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and reduction in trade tariff.
Statistics reeled out at the roundtable discussion were quite revealing, the Registrar of NAGAFF Academy, forwarder Omotosho disclosed that the agreement will help to remove trade barriers, boost economic growth, create jobs and market expansion.
As part of efforts to mobilize stakeholders to prepare for AfCFTA, on 20th December 2019, president Muhammadu Buhari, inaugurated a National Action Committee on AfCFTA to co-ordinate Nigeria’s implementation of AfCFTA agreement.
He revealed that the Federal Executive Council signed and ratified the agreement establishing Nigeria’s membership of AfCFTA on 11th November 2020, while it commenced operation in January 2021.
At a well attended roundtable discussion, Omotosho noted that the objectives of the agreement are to create a single Continental market for made -in- African goods and services with free movement of business, persons, Investments, while creating avenue for establishment of Continental Customs Union.
In his response, the president of Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN) Comrade Ray Ugochukwu, said the worth of AfCFTA is over $3.4 trillion annually with tendency to increase over the years.
He promised to ensure that MAJAN will continue to discuss with relevant stakeholders and enlighten the reading public through accurate report.
He is quoted as saying that “as journalists our duty is to enlighten the masses through dissemination of information”
According to him, ” effort is on top gear to host national maritime summit on Apapa traffic gridlock which is expected to take place by March 2021″
The summit, he stated, is designed to provide a veritable platform for critical stakeholders, regulatory agencies and government departments to proffer lasting solutions to the Perennial traffic gridlock at Apapa port access roads.
At the end of the deliberation, it was recommended that for Nigeria to benefit from the agreement, the government, maritime stakeholders and freight forwarders need to understand the concept of digital payment system.
Besides, they need to have access to Information Communication Technology (ICT), space satellite hosting for adequate internet connections.
Most importantly, the report recommended adequate training and re-training, access to capital/loan, financial empowerment, access to multimodal transport system, provision of adequate security measures, as what must be done for businesses to benefit from the agreement.
As a way forward, Nigeria needs to provide infrastructure, have paperless port operation processes, provide seamless cargo clearance and have 24 hours operations at land borders, I airports and seaports, while reducing customs tariff and have 24 hours bank services.