The Lagos State Government is leveraging on African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) to empower and train Small and Medium Enterprises(SMEs),in the production of farm produce such as Coconut,Fish , Vegetables and Fashion for export.
Lagos State Governor,Mr.Babajide Sanwo Olu, stated this in his keynote address at the one day Seminar on African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA),with the theme “AFCFTA,the Challenges of Businesses in Nigeria”,at the Airport Hotel ,Ikeja,Lagos on Tuesday.
Sanwo Olu who was represented by Director of Lagos Chamber of Commerce Industry and Cooperatives Dr.Lola Akande,who was represented by Deputy Director in the ministry,Mrs Bashirideen Omola eke,said the state government had set up a high powered committee comprising the ministry of Commerce, Agriculture,Finance and Justice to look into how the state can que into the AFCFTA programme.
“We are already working on the exportation of products produced in the state” he said ,stressing that the export committee set up for this purpose had been holding quarterly meetings and had been able to identify three products that can be exported and gain foreign exchange” he said.
He noted that Lagos is famed to be the center of excellence and that is why they are adding fashion because “we are fashionable”he stated,adding that the government has established a fashion Mall in Ikeja axis and is planning to set up another Mall in Yaba area.
“We are preparing people on this sector for AFCFTA arrangement,and we are working hard to prepare the SMEs,through the exclusive training programs held every year,where awareness is being created for products produced in Lagos State, ‘ he said.
Meanwhile,stakeholders are divided over the workability and sustainability of AFCFTA .
While some believe that AFCTA,might turn out to be a failure,others hold,that AFCFTA has come to stay.
Speaking on the topic;” The Workings of AFCFTA and Its Benefits”, Forwarder,Francis Omotosho,Registrar at National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders ( NAGAFF), stated that if the objectives of AFCFTA,,which include free trade, were realisable,”We must remove barriers such as tariff barriers and non tariff barriers” he said.
Omotosho argued that AFCFTA may not work given the peculiar circumstances of African states and governments.
However,this position or claim was debunked by former President of NAGAFF,Dr.Eugene Nweke who incidentally was the Chairman of the occasion. Nweke affirmed that AFCFTA is the best thing that happened to Africa because of its immense benefits.
Omotosho however remained insistent that unless certain encumbrances that stifle trade facilitation are removed , AFCFTA Will not work.
He argued that Nigeria that is supposed to lead AFCFTA is smeared in problems
“Nigeria as a country is about to collapse as a result of combination of factors such as insecurity,high tariff,lack of ease of doing business , epileptic electricity, poor access roads and inadequate infrastructure amongst others”he submitted.
Omotosho went further to identify critical factors militating against free trade in Africa such as lack of good rail network system,general political instability,inconsistency in trade agreement,excessive levies in the ports