AfCFTA: A Continent’s Quest For Economic Emancipation

By Frank Odinukaeze

AfCFTA: A Continent's Quest For Economic Emancipation

African is on the match. She has taken what many consider a bold step towards uplifting her people who are smeared in abject poverty largely not owing to their making but by insensitive and purposeless leadership  that have hoisted on the citizenry poverty and economic stagnation.

It was therefore  a great joy to most people when leaders of African continent came together to muster the idea of African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
In a continent where majorly of the citizenry live on les than $5dollars  a day calls for worry

AfCTA is believed  by many to be  a conduit  pipe for Africa’s economic emancipation and eradication of poverty.

fCTA’s objective include : Creation of a single market window for goods and services,facilitated by movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African continent and in accordance with the pan- African  vision of “An integrated , prosperous and peaceful  Africa”,enshrined in agenda 2063.

The other objectives are: Creation of a liberalized market for goods and services through successive rounds of negotiations, amongst others.

Indeed, the benefits of AfCFTA are immense. One of the benefits  is to progressively eliminate tariff and non tariff barriers to trade in goods; access to greater continental market share.

The AfCFTA agreement gives Nigeria the opportunity to gain access to  over billion consumers and tap into a three trillion -dollar Africa market. The agreement will also provide a stronger industrial agenda. The treaty will drive the much needed increase in manufacturing activities. This will in turn  improve Nigeria’s export earnings and make the manufacturing sector more competitive.
It was therefore not surprising when the Nigerian  Union of  Journalists (NUJ),Lagos State Chapter decided to organize  a one  day seminar with the theme:”AfCFTA: Challenges of Businesses in Nigeria”,at Airport Hotel Ikeja Lagos.
Speaking on the topic-AfCFTA: “Hurdles  in Protecting  Nigerian Shippers” Mrs Juliana Saka. who represented the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer ,Nigerian Shippers’ Council,(NSC), noted that statutorily, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council  has the mandate to facilitate  and monitor free cargo  to and from Nigeria  from origin to destination.
In accomplishing this mandate,the NSC, works in synergy with border agencies and other relevant government agencies and stakeholders.
Her words,”In recognition of the role of NSC in the logistics value chain, the National Action Committee on AfCFTA, designated the NSC as the African focal center for the transportation sector”,
She said the effort of the agency  at encouraging shippers’ to participate in AfCFTA trade is replete with some hurdles, among which are:poor knowledge of shippers  on content of the AfCFTA agreement; challenge of high logistics costs in Nigeria and poor infrastructure. Others are low connectivity of the Nigerian ports;export cost/ low value of export, cumbersome ports process and procedures, low level of automation,absence of single-window platform, wrong declaration by shippers and paucity of funds are some of the challenges being experienced in the sector.
According to her, for shipping in Nigeria to thrive and trade competitively under AfCFTA, issues concerning the provision of adequate trade infrastructure and improved environment as well as other contentious issues must be decisively addressed.
Issues such as rehabilitation of critical road networks that would  facilitate  local and  international trade; development and completion of rail  projects to  facilitate  cargo movement; installation of adequate housing and cold room; provision of facilities for perishable cargo at major air and seaports, amongst others.
She argued that for AFCFTA to actualize its objectives ,there is need for the implementation of a favourable exchange rate policy that will promote  export oriented economic growth by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN).
“AfCTA can complement Nigeria’s  national developmental agency and can  also act as catalysts for the  country’s economic growth. Trading under the agreement offers Nigerian products and services preferential access to the huge African market which currently source over 85% of its products imports from outside the continent”,she said.
Indeed,the crux of the whole  presentations at the NUJ AfCFTA seminar was basically to rescue the economic soul of  African continent from its present parlous state.
In a related development, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Matters and Secretary,National Action Committee on  AfCFTA, Francis Anatogu,while speaking at the 10th Fellowship  Investiture and Induction Ceremony of the African Centre for Supply Chain and Public  presentation of the 5th edition  Report   of the Logistics and Supply Chain Industry in Nigeria, stated that intra- Africa trade  currently stands at 15% while intra-Europe is 67%, Asia  is 58% while intra- North America stands at 48%.
Anatogu however noted that, in 10 years time, Africa’s share of world trade will be up from 3% to 6%.
He said the objective of AFCFTA according to Article 3 of the agreement, are inter –alia, to create single market for goods and services, promote and attain sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, facilitation of  movement of capital and Investment,enhance competitiveness,promote industrial development and lay foundation for growth.

He noted that Africa’s largest market by Gross Demostic Product,GDP, accounts for  82% of Africa’s goods imports and 25% of services import.

“There is a need for an anchor market to develop and scale prior to expansion to foreign market. There is a need to grow the market share of local businesses in the face of the  increased competition that will  ensue with AfCFTA”he said.

In this battle for solution to African continent’s economic emancipation and survival,the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria(MAN),was not left out.

Speaking on the topic, AFCFTA:”The Hurdles Before Nigerian Manufacturers” ,Dr.Olusegun Osidipe who represented the association gave useful and insightful information on how the African continent can leverage on the AfCFTA initiative to emancipate the continent from poverty and build an economically viable and prosperous continent.

Dr.Osidipe stated that the United Nations Economic Committee  for Africa report in 2019 adjudged the 13% intra- African trade, the lowest in the world.

He said  for the same period, the World Trade Organisation (WTO),report also  shows that  the value of Africa’s import merchandise trade was over $500billipm while export was about $350 billion.

“If crude oil export is excluded,the continent’s trade with the world is predominantly import trade with meager export of primary produce.” he said.  He added that,”Economically speaking, this trend is not healthy for Africa in terms of industrialization ,employment generation,poverty reduction, sustainable growth and development”

Dr Osidipe stated that there is urgent need for Africa,to strategically increase  its export volume by effectively mobilizing resources to stimulate increased ultra- African trade through improved industrial production, particularly manufacturing.

“AfCTA is therefore a good project with capacity to unleash the potentials of the continent,fast track development,stimulate improved productivity; promote efficiency, and ensure effective maximization of the welfare of the consumers in State Party Countries,if well implemented”he said.

According to Osidipe, AfCFTA offers the continent the opportunity to evolve.common industrial,trade ,economic investment policies that will integrate the continent with the global market.

He called on Africa  to create a one single market window for the realization of set goals of AfCFTA.

He noted that AfCTA offers the largest single market of over 1.2 billion people and over 3.4 trillion USD GDP.

Dr.Osidipe said Africa presents so much benefits and opportunities for ramping up production and up scaling trade volume particularly reduction on poverty and unemployment
Dr.Osidipe affirmed that AFCFTA is projected to grow  intra African trade to 52.3% in 20 years.He noted that AFCTA portends huge opportunities if well implemented,stressing that it will boost Africa’s export by over 560 billion USD and generate income by 460 billion USD thereby taking 70 million people of Africa out of poverty with wage gain of 10%+(wB)

Dr Osidipe expressed optimism about the success of AfCFTA,but warned that for this to happen, African countries  must  have a robust infrastructural  development ,create competitiveness and mutual understanding

According to him, “The ability of Nigeria as a nation to  benefit maximally in the  AfCFTA trade corridor,depends largely on  the existence of a strong handshake between governments and the private sector, especially manufacturers.”

Also speaking at the event the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA),Dr Bashir Jamoh  who was represented by Owonubi ,a deputy director at the agency, who spoke on the topic: AfCFTA;” Challenges on Nigeria’s Maritime Security” highlighted some issues  that could hinder AfCFTA in Nigeria as corruption, lack of infrastructural coordination; lack of institutional collaboration,lack of access to  innovative funding, amongst others

He said the suppression of piracy and other  offences Act is the legal framework aimed  at prosecuting acts of piracy,and maritime terrorism .
Stating further he said the “Act is intended to help Nigeria in creating a more secure maritime investment, while stressing that intervention of this nature help to protect crew ,vessels,port facilities and cargo.”
He advised countries in Africa to come together to enact ,update and harmonize  other anti piracy laws, legislatures and policies across the region.

His words “It is hoped that African nations would continue to pursue cooperative security ventures and collaboration in order to eliminate  security threats posed by piracy”

There is no doubt that AfCFTA portends great promise for African continent, however  the will power and resolve to harness the immense benefits in the agreement could pose a serious challenge.

As African continent embarks on this AfCFTA project,it remains to be seen how  trade barriers, instability ,piracy and terrorism ,poor infrastructure lack of multi-modal transport system,insecurity, corruption amongst others could allow AfCFTA to thrive .  However, Promise is huge if  the players play to the  rules.

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