AfCFTA portends brighter opportunities for Nigerian growth says Osakwe

The Chief Trade Negotiator for Nigeria and Director General of the Nigerian Office Trade Negotiations, Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, has affirmed that  though there are some challenges; the economic benefits of signing the AfCFTA agreement out weights such problems.

Osakwe made the call on Thursday at the stakeholders’ forum on African Continental Free Trade Agreement organized by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) at Commerce House Victoria Island, Lagos.

”With AfCFTA, Nigeria has great opportunities in boosting her economic growth amongst other countries in the continent. One of the major benefits is that it will give Nigeria the right to access market; create avenue to export various products to the rest of the region which is hinge on the diversification of our exports; it will boost our travel and tourism industry amongst others” Osakwe said.

He urged Nigerians and her business communities to come up with valuable suggestions that would give the country a competitive advantage in signing the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

AfCFTA is a trade agreement which enables African countries to do various business transactions without barriers; thus creating a single market for Africa.

He added that signing the pack will further create employment opportunities for the teeming population of young Nigerians as well as boost the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He said further that it was the duty of the government to involve all the stakeholders in order to get their buy-in before going ahead to sign the agreement.

According to him, “we have had consultations with over 25 trade associations across the country. We have had meetings in Kano for the North-West, in Borno for the North-East, Owerri for the South-East; we are going to Calabar by this weekend for a meeting in the South-South region and we will be in Lagos by May 30 for that of the South-West.

Speaking in the same vein, the President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Babatunde Ruwase, appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari, for the initiative his government has put in place to reach out and consult with unions and businesses to assess the risks and benefits an open market would pose to Nigerian manufacturing sector and SMEs in general.

Ruwase stressed that AfCFTA creates the largest free trade area in the world with a single continental market for goods and services; as well as a customs union with free movement of capital and business travelers.

“This agreement gives birth to the world’s largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization which was formed in 1995. This is in terms of the number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people and about $4 trillion inn combined consumer and business spending if all 555 countries in Africa join the agreement.” he said.

He, however, expressed Nigeria’s fear as a country due to the numerous bilateral trade agreements of some AU countries with the rest of the world and Nigeria’s underdeveloped industries and infrastructural sector.

According to him, signing such pack would automatically make Nigeria a dumping ground due to her uncompetitive manufacturing profile, market size and population.

Ruwase further encouraged the government to deepen consultation across all sectors in order to address the above concerns, noting that to LCCI, those concerns are legitimate.

It would be recalled that about 44 African countries had signed the AfCFTA agreement in Rwandan capital, Kigali on March 22, 2018. Nigeria and South Africa were conspicuously absent at the Kigali meeting.



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