President Muhammadu Buhari has urged African countries to deepen their participation in international trade in order to increase the continent’s export beyond the current three percent.
Speaking in Lagos on Monday at 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’, Buhari said expanding African export trade will help to create wealth, generate employment, reduce poverty and transform the African economies.
Represented by Ademola Adegoroye, the minister of state for transportation, Buhari noted that the implementation of the AfCFTA was crucial in deepening Africa’s participation in international trade.
The president believed that African governments must develop appropriate supporting policies, build the requisite infrastructure and build an educated workforce for AfCFTA to have a positive influence on long-term investment in productive capacities.
He recalled a report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, which said that AFCFTA could boost intra-African trade by 52 percent with the industrial sector gaining the most.
“GDP and exports would increase by $44 billion and $56 billion respectively and AfCFTA could potentially increase jobs and move informal traders into the formal sector. Digitisation is transforming the way we do business in Africa. In 2011, Digitisation impacted the GDP of Africa by $8.3 billion and created over 600,000 jobs on the continent,” he said.
The president said AFCFTA would be a game changer in Nigeria because it will stimulate intra-African trade and expand the country’s exports to its African partners.
“Nigeria’s exports to the rest of Africa would increase by more than 15 percent in fishery, textile, wearing apparel, leather, wood and papers, metals, electronics, vehicles and transport equipment and machinery for industrial sectors. And meat and poultry, milk and dairy products, rice, other cereals, plant-based fibres and other crops, fruit, vegetables, nuts, vegetable oils, other food products, beverages and tobacco as well as livestock for the agricultural sector,” he said.
He said that African countries need to create national institutions for implementing the Agreement, in addition to institutional coordination mechanisms for execution between public sector, private sector and donors.
In his welcome address, Emmanuel Jime, the executive secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), said African leaders must embrace tariff liberalisation for intra African trade to thrive.
According to him, there is a need to put adequate measures in place to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers that hamper trading between countries in the continent.
He said there was a need to create smooth integration of transport infrastructure and trade policies in the sub-region for trade to thrive.
“There is a need to sensitise our various governments to fast track the dismantling of various tariff and non-tariff barriers that are hindering international trade. We should 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, Mohammed Bello-Koko, the managing director of the NPA, said automation was the tool to port efficiency. He noted that the NPA was working with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to deploy a port community system in Nigerian ports to bring all stakeholders to one platform for ease of doing business.