The Institute of Public Analysts of Nigeria (IPAN) at the second edition of its Business Network Breakfast Series (IBNBS) invited experts to explore how Nigeria can benefit from the African Continental Trade Agreement.
Fifty-four African countries recently ratified a continental trade treaty that will create an estimated $3.4 trillion market opportunity. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is built on a trade treaty that promises to liberalise trade among African countries and create a single market for goods and services on the continent.
The treaty is expected to raise Africa’s nominal gross domestic product (GDP) to $6.7 trillion by 2030 and liberalise 90 percent of products manufactured in Africa. For Nigeria, given its sheer market size, foreign direct investments will increase because of companies that will want to set up factories in the country. This will also lead to technology transfer.
However, experts have raised concerns over Nigeria’s preparedness to reap the benefits arising from the trade agreement without making the economy a dumping ground for sub-standard products. To attain this, Africa’s biggest economy needs a robust quality assurance infrastructure to test products meant for export and those being imported from other countries into Nigeria.
“Quality assurance for made in Nigeria goods is critical if the country is to profitably participate in the continental trade agreement. As a country, we need to take our membership of the African Organisation of Standardisation (ARSO) seriously by ensuring strict compliance assessment standards. Quality sells,” said Osita Aboloma, director-general, the Standard Organisation Nigeria (SON), represented by Mojisola Kehinde, director, Laboratory Services at the SON.
The AfCFTA officially came into force on 30th May 2019 when the required number of ratifications – 22 – were obtained, making the agreement a binding international legal instrument. Negotiations are, however, on-going. After months of consultation and dilly-dallying, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari signed the AfCFTA in July 2019, seeking fair trade for Nigeria.
“This is a most auspicious time to organise our business breakfast network on this theme given that most companies are having strategy sessions now to plan for the year. We intend our deliberation today on this continent-wide trade agreement to help companies better position themselves to take advantage by showing the role of conformity assessments and calibration in the quality of goods,” Aliyu Abdullahi Angara, registrar and the chief executive officer of IPAN said.
To achieve accurate laboratory testing of products, experts say laboratories must have the necessary equipment to undertake the test it is required to carry out. Personnel must have adequate skills and competencies and laboratory equipment must be calibrated regularly. Laboratories are also encouraged to undertake inter-laboratory tests and proficiency testing.
“Nigeria’s micro, small and medium enterprises need access to single-digit credit facilities, infrastructure and an easier environment to do business if they are to compete favourably. The MSMEs have really been orphans,” Adebayo Olu-Adams, chairman Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) told BusinessDay in an exclusive interview.