Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has backed Federal Government’s decision to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), saying Nigeria stands to gain from the trade deal if necessary measures are adopted to maximise the opportunities it will throw up.
Timothy Olawale, the Director General of NECA, who spoke exclusively with BusinessDay on Tuesday, noted that having endorsed the free trade pact, it behoves on Nigeria to take precautionary steps to making sure the economy benefit maximally rather than lose to the AfCFTA.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the trade deal on behalf of Nigeria in Niamey, Niger Republic, Sunday, July 7, during the 12th extraordinary session of the African Union (AU), where the right to host the secretariat of AfCFTA was ceded to Accra, Ghana.
According to Olawale, NECA and the larger organised private sector endorsed the signing with pre-conditions on what government must do to ensure that Nigeria optimise or reaps the maximum benefit derivable from the agreement.
“These will mitigate the fear of Nigeria becoming a dumping ground for foreign goods, ensure the competitiveness and sustainability of our local manufacturing industries and encourage foreign investors’ inflow into the country,” he said.
The DG explained that the Nigerian government would be expected to improve generally on infrastructure, chief among which are power and road network and of course resolve the lingering issue of insecurity which has become an albatross to businesses and safety of personnel all over Nigeria.
“These would create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and be competitive with the expected result of job creation and improved earning exports for the country as well,” he said.
President Buhari had in 2018 withheld his signature to the African trade deal, as local manufacturers expressed fears it would hurt the economy and put the economy at the receiving end.
About 24 countries have so far ratified the AfCFTA which seeks to liberalise trade among African countries. It is targeted a ‘borderless’ Africa for the promotion of good and services across the continent.
The AfCFTA is expected to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the Word Trade Organisation (WTO) with a potential market of 1.2 billion people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about $25 trillion across all 55 member states of the African Union.