AfCFTA: Nigeria Commences Export To S’Africa, Others In April

AfCFTA: Nigeria Commences Export To S’Africa, Others In April
Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Olusegun Awolowo.

Nigeria is to begin the formal export of locally produced commodities to South Africa, Rwanda, Cameroon and Kenya from next month under the Guided Trade Initiative of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the national centre of AfCFTA announced on Thursday.

Although some businesses in Nigeria currently export products to these countries, they make such exports informally, but beginning April, Nigerian companies would start the official and formal export of commodities to African nations under the AfCFTA treaty.

The African Continental Free Trade Area is a free trade agreement established among 54 of the 55 African Union nations, creating the largest free trade area in the world by the number of participating countries.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Abuja Stakeholders Workshop on the AfCFTA Digital Trade Protocol, on Thursday, the Executive Secretary, National Action Committee on AfCFTA, Olusegun Awolowo, told journalists that though trading under the main AfCFTA had yet to start, the secretariat of the programme had introduced the Guided Trade Initiative.

He said, “We haven’t started trading in AfCFTA, we are duly going through the protocols. But recently the AfCFTA secretariat itself launched what they call the Guided Trade Initiative to get some countries to start trading outside their regional blocks.

“We’ve signed onto it and I think that by the end of April we are taking a few companies, big, medium and small enterprises to actually launch trading in Africa. All we are doing now is that we are going through and signing all the protocols, as well as finding a way on how to implement them.

“So we are now at the stage of implementation. Therefore, trading hasn’t really commenced under AfCFTA. It is not an overnight thing, you have to go through all the protocols, sign them and agree.

“However, we are hoping that we are able to start trading under the GTI, not on the main AfCFTA itself, by the end of April. So it will be on record that Nigeria has now started exporting officially and formally, because, of course, informal trade is going on anyway.”

Asked to name some of the countries that had also signed onto the GTI scheme which Nigeria would formally start exporting products to, Awolowo replied, “We are going to South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon and Rwanda. This is under the Guided Trade Initiative that was brought by AfCFTA, knowing that trade agreements take long.

“In fact, this AfCFTA is the fastest one. How long did it take the World Trade Organisation to get on ground? They are still signing protocols up till today. But this is fastest one and to fast-track it, that is what the GTI is all about.

“It is an initiative that enables countries to chose. Let’s take the companies and let them actually export from the various ports. Then we test the capacities of the ports, test the capacities of the shipments and the capacities of cargoes. Then the private sector can fully buy into it. So that’s what is going to happen.”

Established in March 2018, the AfCFTA became effective on May 30, 2019, with the goal to boost intra-African trade, foster economic development and create a larger, more competitive African market.

The benefits of the agreement include increased trade and investment opportunities, creation of jobs, improved living standards and enhanced economic diversification and transformation.

It, however, has some challenges which include the difficulty in the implementation of trade facilitation measures, addressing infrastructure gaps, and building productive capacity.

Experts say the AfCFTA has the potential to be a game-changer for Africa, but its success will depend on overcoming these challenges and ensuring all member states can participate effectively.

Speaking about the workshop, Awolowo stated that the adoption of the AfCFTA Digital Trade Protocol marked a significant milestone in the journey towards economic integration and digital transformation.

“It signifies our collective commitment to leveraging digital technologies to enhance intra-African trade, foster innovation, and drive sustainable economic growth.

“In the wake of this landmark achievement, it is imperative that we equip ourselves with the requisite knowledge and resources to seize the opportunities that lie ahead. Trade is competitive!

“In this regard, it is imperative that all stakeholders, particularly our esteemed Nigerian youth, embrace the AfCFTA Digital Trade Protocol as a catalyst for job creation, wealth generation, and socio-economic empowerment.

“The digital economy holds unparalleled potential to empower our youth, unleash their entrepreneurial spirit, and facilitate their meaningful participation in the global marketplace.”

On his part, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Legal, Research and Compliance Matters in the Office of the Vice President, Bashir Maidugu, advised the government to get the youths involved in AfCFTA Digital trade.

“Nigeria is the largest market in Africa and we are leading in the digital e-commerce space, but what the government is advised to do is to encourage the youths and other professional bodies to utilise the opportunity of the AfCFTA to boost the Nigerian economy.

“So the government will have to pay more attention to Nigerian youths, who are already dominating in Africa, for example, Flutterwave, Konga, Jiji and so many other online stores and fintech payment systems.

“The government can be more active in developing the skills of these youths who are the driving force for digital trade. So the attention could be by funding universities and other research institutes and e-learning centres. This is to ensure that we maintain our dominance and add more,” Maidugu stated.

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