By Jerry Aguigbo
The African Continental Free Trade agreement (AfCFTA), holds lot of promises for all members of this union, the trade agreement ratified by 55 countries is reputed to be the largest free trade zone in the world. As the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria hosts the largest market in Africa and having accented in 2020 to ratify and participate in this looming large market Nigeria is in a vantage position to gain maximally, if the right steps are taken.
The MD/ CEO, MCManuel Global Logistics, Comrade Emeka Emmanuel Enwelu who spoke at a roundtable event organised by the Maritime Jornalists’ Association of Nigeria (MAJAN) recently, believes Nigeria may not reap the benefits of AfCFTA, adducing reasons for his position, the MCManuel boss says the country is I’ll prepared for the regional trade agreement.
According to him, “there has been lack of sensitisation for the implementation of this trade agreement, the Nigeria Customs service is supposed to be the lead Agency in this trade zone but as we speak, they are not sure of what to make of the body language of the government and as such, they cannot approach the implementation head on, the government through the ministry of trade and industry are still dilly dallying with the guidelines and the Customs would wait for this to fully get into it.
Hence, there is serious lacuna, the Licensed Customs Agents who are directly involved in this trade deal are not sensitised enough to understand what trade deal entails.
Nigeria as the largest market in Africa and very influential but does not understand the implications of this agreement, so it may not misplaced to say she may lose out of gains,” he said.
Continuing, Enwelu says “the government is not responsible and that brings to fore the trust deficit, we do not know what the government will do next, they can change their mind on any issue they have agreed to, look at the border closure, Nigerians woke up to hear it, how do you sign an agreement an turn around to shut the borders? This type of policy Summersault is not good for planning and most times, the economy is worsened.
He wondered why such a huge continental business deal should be shrouded in secrecy, noting that it “ought to have been on the lips of everybody like Covid-19 is”.
Also speaking, the Guest Lecturer, the Registrar, NAGAFF Academy, Fwdr. Francis Omotosho, revealed that Regional trade agreements vary depending on the level of commitment and arrangement among member countries. It comes with internal rules that member countries must follow.
“These include removal of trade barriers; free movement of goods and services across the region; Customs Union of
Member countries must reduce trade barriers to enhance seamless cargo clearance; free import and export of resources must be allowed; member countries have to adopt a set of economic policies and use of one currency; regional integration must be encouraged. Investors who want to put money in developing countries must be protected against political risk”.
Adding, he says, “AfCFTA has economic benefits, which include increase in foreign direct investments (FDI) and reduction in trade tariff. The agreement helps to remove trade barriers. It boosts economic growth, creates jobs and paves the way for market
“AfCFTA is a flagship project of African Union Agenda 2063, a blueprint for attaining inclusive and sustainable growth.
On 20th December, 2019, in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the National Action Committee for Implementation of AfCFTA. The Federal Executive Council ratified Nigeria’s membership of AfCFTA on November 11, 2020 and it started in January 2021 as scheduled.
Continuing, Omotosho, said, “The objectives are to create a single continental market for Made in African goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, paving the way for establishment of Continental Customs Union.
“When fully implemented, AfCFTA will eliminate tariffs on intra- businesses to trade within the continent and cater for growing African market.
It will create a liberalised market for goods a nd services through successive rounds of negotiation.
The Union will lay the foundation for establishment of a continental customs union.
“AfCFTA is to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Continental free Trade Area will consolidate Africa into one trade area for entrepreneurs, businesses and consumers across the continent”.
Responding, MAJAN President, Comrade Ray Ugochukwu, said the worth of AfCFTA is over $3billion annually and has the tendency to increase over the years.
He assured that MAJAN would continue to discuss with relevant stakeholders and enlighten the public through responsible reportage.
Speakers at the programme applauded MAJAN, for taking the initiative to hold a roundtable discussion on AfCFTA, which is an important issue in the country presently.
They called on regulatory agencies, stakeholders and corporate organisations in the maritime Industry’ to give MAJAN adequate support to continue in its enlightenment programme.
Also, some of the speakers pointed out that the Nigeria Customs Service is supposed to utilize its single window to direct the implementation of AfCFTA but lamented that even when opened wide, Customs Agents cannot see through the window due largely to corruption. They also pointed at the confusion of which Agency’s duty it is to manage the single window.