President Muhammadu Buhari, on Friday, inaugurated the National Action Committee for the Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) Agreement describing it as critical to Nigeria’s effort at job creating.
According to President Buhari, for us as a government, our expectation from this agreement is job creation for our youth, increased production of our local raw materials and ultimately, exporting quality Made in Africa goods.
Speaking during the inauguration of the committee at the State House’s Council Chamber, Abuja, he said Nigeria’s approach to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement has been very measured and consistent.
While assuring the committee of cooperation from all government officials, including ministers and other senior functionaries, he said he expects quarterly reports from it on its progresses, the first of which must be March 2020.
The President said: “Trade is pivotal to job creation, growth and health of the economy. It is also a key enabler for regional and global integration.
”The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement is an important part of the African Union- 2063 Agenda to promote economic and social integration on the continent.
”We are very hopeful of creating a single African market for “Made -in- Africa” goods and services. This trade, together with free movement of people and capital will result in faster integration of African economies.
”We must ensure that Nigeria’s position remains that, such integration must be rules-based with built-in safeguards, against injurious practices.
”Our logic was simple, as Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation, we cannot afford to get it wrong.
”We consulted all key stakeholders. We also conducted a rigorous impact and readiness evaluation. It was after these consultations and studies, and satisfactory reports that I signed the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement on behalf of Nigeria in July this year.”
Buhari said that Nigeria knows the benefits and understand the challenges.
”It is clear that for us to fully benefit from this agreement, we must have an implementation programme that reflects our national trade objectives and development plans, ” he added
He charged the committee to their responsibility requires aligning, restructuring existing development projects, programme and initiatives stressing that ”Where there are gaps, we must address them. All parties must work together and not allow any loopholes that might prove injurious to the Nigerian economy.”
“I have directed all key Ministers and Senior Government officials to provide maximum support to your Committee.
“For us as a government, our expectation from this agreement is job creation for our youth, increased production of our local raw materials and ultimately, exporting quality Made in Africa goods.
Earlier in his remarks, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, said the committee, during its engagement with stakeholders, had come to conclude that the AfCFTA can enhance economic growth for the country.
The Minister, who is the Chairman of the committee, said that for Nigeria to benefit from the agreement, a lot of structural readjustments have to be made.
“From the stakeholder engagements and technical studies, we established that the AFCFTA can facilitate economic growth and diversification through preferential access to Africa’s market.
“We also established that in order to get the full benefits of the Agreement, Nigeria needs to: increase her production and service capacities; implement adjustment measures such as retooling and upscaling of existing businesses; resolve bottlenecks in energy, logistic and quality infrastructure; improve public service delivery, education and health.
“With the above readiness requirements in mind, Your Excellency in August 2019, approved the strategy for the implementation of AfCFTA and directed the establishment of a National Action Committee on AfCFTA, to undertake a wide range of actions to prepare Nigerian businesses for trade under the AFCFTA regime”, he said.
Other members of the committee are: Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, who is Alternate Chairman;
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters, Office of the Chief of Staff, who is Secretary.
Others are Director General Budget Office of the Federation; Permanent Secretary Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment; Director General, Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations; Senior Special Assistant to the President on Development Policy, Office of the Chief of Staff; Director, Technical Services, Federal Ministry of Finance; Director level representatives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Others included representatives from Federal Ministries of Industry, Trade and Investment; Transportation, Aviation Agriculture and Rural Development; Petroleum Resources, Mines and Steel Development, Power; Communications and Digital Economy, Works and Housing and many others.
Tony Ailemhen, Abuja