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Business

AfCFTA: African Customs Officials to draft free trade continental guidelines

Customs officials from around Africa gave a nod to the adoption of continental guidelines to facilitate the free flow of cross-border trade.

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Q1 2020, AfCFTA, African Continental Free Trade Area, Africa Free Trade Agreement, Business new, Nairametrics news, AfCFTA: Promoting Non -Oil revenue will maximize agreement for Nigeria - NESG

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) got closer to actualization on Saturday as Customs officials in the continent agreed to draft continental guidelines to enable the movement of goods, services and people for the agreement.

This was disclosed by the UN Economic Commission for Africa on Saturday evening.

“Liberalization of 90% of tariff lines will affect customs revenues. About 85% of import come from outside Africa, leaving about 15% from the continent, but the agreement is an opportunity for Nigeria to boost exports and production,”  the Customs Service disclosed at the AfCFTA Sensitization Seminar.

READ: Export of our products in West African sub-region now less competitive – MAN

The joint adoption of a continental customs guidelines comes a few weeks before the AfCFTA kicks off in January 2021.

The meeting organized by the African Union Commission (AUC) virtually was attended by Customs Chiefs in Africa, who agreed to implement measures to facilitate cross-border trading challenges heightened by the covid-19 pandemic.

READ: African free trade will boost development of manufacturing in Nigeria – NEPC

The Director of Regional Integration and Trade, UN Economic Commission for Africa, Stephen Karingi, disclosed that the guidelines were drafted to boost coordination and implementations of a common customs guideline covering areas including transport and infrastructure and others.

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“The aim is to have the continental guidelines in place early next year to reinforce start of trading under the AfCFTA,” he said.

READ: AfCFTA: Improving guidance on standards can make Nigeria a beneficiary – Trade Minister

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The guidelines cover a number of new sub-sections to respond to specific gaps in existing rules, including the regulation of small-scale cross-border trade and cross-border trade by fishermen, gender considerations, and treatment of essential workers, including transport and humanitarian workers.

“Once in force, the continental guidelines are expected to ensure a harmonized approach to support smooth and safe trade amid the pandemic, including transit trade between RECs,” said Hussein Hassan, AUC’s Acting Director for Trade and Industry.

READ: Covid-19: First world nations oppose waiving intellectual rights for vaccine development

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What you should know 

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is one of the  biggest free-trade agreements in the world right now with a potential market of 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion

The Federal Government announced that it has ratified Nigeria’s membership to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), ahead of the December 5, 2020 deadline. The agreement goes into effect from the 1st of January 2021.

Nairametrics reported in September that the Nigerian Customs said the facilitation of trade requirements ranging from Pre-Arrival processes to Electronic Payments of duties would be important for the AfCFTA implementation for Nigeria.

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Business

Cement prices surge in South East as scarcity, price hike hit North East

Prices of cement have risen by 67% in many Southeastern states and by 40% as observed in northern states including Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, others.

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The prices of cement have risen by 67% in the South-East states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.

This is as some residents of the North-Eastern part of the country also complained of price hike of cement, which they attributed to the scarcity of the product and the activities of middlemen who try to capitalize on the situation.

According to a report from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), a market survey conducted at various wholesale and retail shops in the eastern zone shows that the price of the product has almost doubled when compared to the price in 2020.

What the cement traders in the eastern states are saying

A cement dealer at Kenyetta Market in Enugu State, Mr Ifeanyi Amadi, said the increase in the price of the product which started last year was due to the Covid-19 pandemic and increase in dollar exchange.

He pointed out that a trailer load of Dangote cement with 600 bags, which sold for N1.5 million in 2020, sold for N2.3 million in the first quarter of 2021.

Another retailer, Samuel Uwakwe, noted that a bag of Dangote Cement now goes for N3,900, Unicem for N3,700; BUA Cement for N3,700 and Kogi Super Cement for N3,600.

While begging the suppliers to reduce the price and make the product available, Uwakwe expressed his reservations at few individuals being given the opportunity to supply the product noting that the prices would likely crash during raining season.

In Abia, a cross-section of residents of Umuahia, the state capital, also decried the high price of cement, which ranges from N4,000 to N4,100 per 50kg bag.

Those who spoke to NAN said the price hike had further dashed the hope of many Nigerians, wishing to own their personal homes.

A businessman, Mr Victor Ugwu, said he had to suspend his building project because of the current development as he could not afford to continue with the current price of the commodity.

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He said,  “I think the hike can be attributed to the monopoly being enjoyed by the cement producers in the country. Unfortunately, there may not be any respite until that monopoly is broken.”

However, a cement dealer, Mr James Ogbonna, said the price increase had nothing to do with the manufacturers of the commodity but rather put the blame on the activities of shylock distributors of cement.

He said, “In the first and second week of March, we sold a bag for N3,200, but within the third week we started selling at N3,500. By the end of March, the price moved up to N4,000 and now, we sell between N4,000 and N4100, depending on the brand.”

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A cement dealer in Awka, Mr Kenechukwu Okoye, said before the #EndSARS protest in 2020, a 50kg bag of cement was sold at N2,500 bur rose to N3,000 immediately after the protest and from there to the current price of N4,000 and N4,100.

The survey also says that in Owerri, the Imo state capital, the price of cement is between N3,850 and N4300, depending on the brand.

At the building materials Market in Naze, Owerri North Local Government Area, Dangote and BUA cement are sold at N4,000 per bag while BUA and UNICEM are sold for N3,900.

Mr Okechukwu Okonya, a seller, said the cost could be attributed to the high cost of transportation as a result of fuel price increase adding that major dealers sometimes hoard the product in their warehouses to create artificial scarcity.

The survey report says that in Abakaliki, Ebonyi, prices of almost all building materials have gone up, with Dangote and Bua which sold for N2,500 earlier in November and December 2020 now selling for between N4000 and N4500.

Similarly, Unicem cement which also sold at N2,300 within the same period had also gone up to N4,000 and N4,300.

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Similar price increase in North East

The survey report in Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Jigawa, shows an average of 40% increase in price.

According to the respondents, this could be attributed to the outbreak of Covid-19 which affected production in factories, while demand kept rising.

Others, however, blamed the hike on the high cost of transportation and other sundry activities associated with the business of procurement and sales of cement in the country.

Malam Ibrahim Sanusi, a cement dealer at the Gombe main market described the hike as outrageous when compared with the price of the same commodity the previous year.

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He said that a bag of Dangote brand which he bought for N2,400 and sold for N2, 500, is bought for N4,000 from their depot in Gombe and sold for N4,200.

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Business

FG explains why it wants to reduce human contact at the ports, achieves 70% digitalization

This is to help drastically reduce inefficiencies, corruption, diversion of money, revenue leakages and constant delays.

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Container shipping operations from China to Onitsha resume

The Federal Government has moved to reduce human traffic into the Nigerian ports as it says that the ports have achieved 70% digitalization.

This is to help drastically reduce inefficiencies, corruption, diversion of money, revenue leakages and constant delays being experienced at the various ports by stakeholders and other ports users.

This disclosure was made by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, on Friday at a news conference on the first quarter activities of the council in Lagos.

The NSC boss said that the 70% digitalization was lower than the 90% targeted by the council in the first quarter of 2021, which although it did not achieve, it is still pushing to actualise.

What the Nigerian Shippers’ Council Executive Secretary is saying

Bello in his statement said, “Most of the ports in the world are digitized, Nigeria cannot be an exception. We cannot have a multitude of people going into the ports every day, human contact in the ports is very dangerous, it is anti-efficiency and once there is human contact, there will be corruption and then delay.

Some people don’t even have any business to go to the port but you see them there, what are they doing?

We have been working with shipping companies and terminal operators to ensure we make the deadline we set for the first quarter but we saw it was not feasible to attain 90% digitalization. What we were able to do on the average was 70%, but digitization of the ports is a process in the making. We want this to happen as quickly as possible,” he said.

He said that the port was not a place for contact, as one could move millions of tons of cargo with a computer adding that they were happy to announce that the council was on course.

Bello noted that a non-contact port was the solution to many problems in the system such as delay which caused demurrage, diversion of money, corruption and revenue leakages.

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He said that digitization would make our ports more competitive, noting that the country had competitors in West and Central Africa sub-regions.

On the level of digitalization of shipping companies, he said that Grimaldi had 88%, Ocean Network Express 76%, and CMA CGM 63%, among others, while for seaport terminals, PTML had 92%, and in Port Harcourt, Intels, BUA and Wact had 70% digitalization each.

He said, “Where we are having problems is on reforms and claims processes which is mostly manual but we have some that scored 50%. Also, the second phase is the integration of systems because anybody can be online but there is a need to integrate with the banks for example and even the Nigeria Customs Services.’’

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What this means

The digitalization of operations and reduction of human contact at the ports is going to greatly increase efficiency, reduce corruption and ensure that more revenue comes to government coffers.

This will also help eliminate the illegal activities of louts at the ports, improve on the ease of doing business, promote a clean environment at the ports and tackle the menace of illegal trading activities which also degrades the environment at those facilities.

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