As Nigeria explores strategies for successful and beneficial international trade, the Institute of Export Operations and Management (IEOM) held a business roundtable for Chief Executives in public and private sectors, industry leaders and business executives as implementation of Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) begins.
With a market value of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $3 trillion, it is an established fact that AfCFTA offers huge potentials and opportunities to exploit the abundant wealth and resources of the African continent for the benefit of her people; hence the need to respond to the current challenges to the multilateral trading system by consolidating and advancing our continental market integration objectives, through the AfCFTA.
The consensus reached during the AfCFTA CEO’s Business Round table organized by IEOM at the prestigious L.A Kings Hotel and conference centre in Port Harcourt, was that there was a need for adjustments in Nigerian laws and trade policies to enable AfCFTA thrive.
Executive Secretary of IEOM, Mr. Ofon Udofia, while making his opening remark at the roundtable, said the event is coming at a critical time especially now that the Free Trade Agreement has become effective since January 1st, 2021.
He noted that the AfCFTA signals that Africa is open for business and mutually beneficial investment, thereby creating decent jobs and improving livelihoods, hence a lot needs to be done across the country to truly engage business leaders and equip them with the knowledge and insights to take advantage of what AfCFTA has to offer.
According to Udofia, for businesses to fully benefit from AfCFTA it is imperative that we take definite steps to position our businesses strategically.
“It is within this context that the AfCFTA Business round table was conceived by the institute with the key aim of equipping business leaders with the insight and clarity needed to make some smart decisions regarding your participation in international trade under the AfCFTA umbrella” he said.
The guest speaker, Professor of International Relations and economics at the Covenant University, Ota, and member of the National Action Committee on AfCFTA in Nigeria, Prof Jonathan Aremu, noted that the sensitization was in line with the mandate to prepare Nigeria to take advantage of the AfCFTA Agreement while also mitigating its threats to the Nigerian economy.
He said Nigeria signed the AfCFTA treaty on the 7th of July, 2019, and ratified the Treaty on the 4th of December 2020. According to him, African states who ratify and implement the agreement would have to make domestic adjustments in their national laws to comply with obligations imposed by AfCFTA , thereby making the Treaty part of their national laws through domestication.
He, however, frowned at the records of African countries who are sluggish on domesticating regional trade agreements especially the AfCFTA, saying this development has contributed to a serious ‘implementation gap’ in many countries within.
“If AfCFTA provisions are not domesticated into national law they cannot be employed in defense of cases involving their violations before courts of law in the country neither can they be used for the advocacy of rights within the country, further to this, violators of AfCFTA provisions, be they state institutions, companies or individuals cannot be held accountable, since the AfCFTA Treaty has not been domesticated in the country,” he said.
He added that failure of Nigeria to domesticate AfCFTA, or lateness in doing so causes unreasonable hardship on the other AU Member States that intends having a commercial relationship with the country under the continental economic integration.
He named some of the gains of the AfCFTA as; Better Infrastructure and Improved Digital Connectivity, Freer Movement of People and Good Business Environment, Facilitation of Small and Medium Scale Trade.
The core objective of the AfCFTA is to create a single market for goods, services, and free movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African continent, he said.