To harness the potentials inherent in African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), African countries in the West and Central Africa sub-region must fast-track the removal of the various tariffs and non-tariff barriers impeding intra-Africa trade, Emmanuel Jime, the executive secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), has said.
Speaking on Monday in Lagos at the opening of the 9th United African Shippers’ Council (UASC) meeting tagged ‘African Continental Free Trade Agreement: A Veritable Platform for African Shippers to Mainstream into Global Trade,’ Jime said that intra-African trade can thrive if African leaders embrace tariff liberalisation.
According to him, trading within African countries is presently at a paltry 11 percent while the volume of Africa’s trade compared to the global trade is at a ridiculous 3 percent.
He however called for the re-orientation and re-organisation of intra-Africa trade, which he said should start from the West and Central Africa sub-region.
He said that if the region gets it right, it will be easier for other sub-region in the African continent to trade among them.
“We believe that AfCFTA is a very important tool to boost the African economy by increasing intra-African trade. When adequate measures are put in place to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers that hamper trading between countries in the continent, then we will be on our way to achieving greater economic development for the continent,” he explained.
Continuing, he said: “We all know that it is not an easy task because a lot of things have been left undone in the past, but we can start now with great commitment and determination, and we can achieve the Africa we all desire.”
The Shippers Council’s boss, however, said that if potentials inherent in intra-African trade are effectively harnessed, the African economy would expand by 52.3 percent.
“The United Nations Commission for Africa estimated that AFCFTA would expand the size of Africa’s economy to $29 trillion by 2050 and increase intra-African trade to 52.3 percent from the current 11 percent. Share of Africa’s trade to global trade is expected to double from the current 3 percent to 6 percent with the implementation of the agreement,” he said.
Jime further called for the creation of a smooth integration of transport infrastructures and trade policies as well as the required awareness among the economic operators in the sub-region.
“There is a need to always look at the holistic impact which tariff liberalisation would have on our economy rather than just considering the immediate shortfall,” he added.
On his part, Sunday Umoren, the secretary-general of the Abuja MoU, said AfCFTA might suffer set back without the participation of the private sector.
According to him, there is also a need to consider the role of shipping carriers to international trade, especially in the delivery of goods and services.
He advised the West and Central African region to have a strong ship-owning capacity that would reduce the impact of high freight rates on shipping costs.