The Nigerian Government has been urged to map out specific policies that will facilitate the successful realisation of the advantages inherent in the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The advice was given, yesterday, in Lagos by stakeholders who were convened by the Financial Derivative Company (FDC) to discuss on the topic “Policy Change: The enabler of sustainable growth”. This follows President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent signing of the AfCFTA during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government.
AfCFTA’s Advantages: Panelists at the event mostly agreed that the AfCFTA offers many advantages. This is more so as “openness to trade and investment are the key foundations of economic growth”, according to Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, the DG of the Nigerian Office for Negotiations.
There are problems: Some of the stakeholders questioned whether Nigeria has put in place the necessary structural reforms that are needed to enable AfCFTA’s actualisation. Specifically, the Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Muda Yusuf, noted that “there are opportunities here; but will the environment be conducive enough?”
He did not seem to believe that there is enough concrete evidence suggesting that the Nigerian Government is doing enough to make the economic environment conducive enough for the actualisation of AfCFTA.
Also discussing the pros and cons of AfCFTA is the Director-General of NISER, Dr Folarin Gbadebo Smith. He questioned whether “open borders would automatically cause Nigeria’s GDP to grow”. While that is a possibility, he did opine that trade with the rest of the world is a more efficacious enabler of economic growth than the AfCFTA.
The panelists, therefore, called for measures to be put in place towards addressing the wide array of structural reforms that must happen before Nigeria can fully take advantage of the AfCFTA. As Mr Yusuf of the LCCI put it;
“Those in charge of policies should know exactly where we’re going. They must have a specific policy direction.”
VP Osinbajo’s Remarks: Meanwhile, earlier during the event, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (who was represented by Dr Jumoke Oduwole, an SSA to President Buhari), gave a keynote address. He highlighted some of the many advantages of the AfCFTA, while emphasising that Nigeria does not believe in protectionist foreign policy.
In view of this, there, the country is committed to ensuring the successful actualisation of the AfCFTA, he said. The Vice President also stated that it is “incumbent on us to safeguard the AfCFTA” because it could potentially “transform Nigeria from a target economy to a gateway economy”.
Prof. Osinbajo went further to state that Nigerian companies possess the right capacity needed to take advantage of the trade treaty.
He, however, acknowledged the challenges that came along with the AfCFTA, including the structural issues which he said the Government is working hard to resolve. A typical example is Nigeria’s epileptic power supply which he said that “the government is moving towards resolving.” He cited the government’s recently announced partnership with Siemen as a testament to this.
The Vice President also noted that efforts are in place to reform the country’s inadequate transportation system. More so, an anti-dumping policy will be put in place by the Government to checkmate indiscriminate dumping of foreign products in the country.