Mohammed Badaru, Chairman, National Executive Council (NEC) Export Promotion Committee and governor of Jigawa State said Nigeria will maximize the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) if the country develops industrial and agricultural processing zones across States.
The free trade agreement is projected to provide a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion, according to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo.
Badaru said for Nigeria to maximise this, there is also the need to improve ease of doing business by harmonising policies, laws, and regulatory procedures at all levels of government, explaining that it will attract large-scale investment needed to position Nigeria as an industrial hub for the AfCFTA.
Speaking at the ongoing subnational strategy workshop, with the theme: “Creating Economically Viable Communities,” organized by the National Action Committee on AfCFTA in collaboration with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum in Abuja, the chairman added that there is need to increase access to credit, access to land, access to labour and skill, business registration, and tax payment among others, in order to increase ease of doing business.
The chairman further called for strengthening of regulations and quality control of products produced in the country so that they are highly competitive.
He said this could be achieved through collaboration with agencies such as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Standards Organisation of Nigeria.
He added that ramping up skills acquisition for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) is also key to improve their readiness for sub-national participation in the competitive market emerging from the AfCFTA.
Badaru further called for the prevention of distortions and discrimination in trade and investment, adding that tax rights under the AfCFTA must be mutually beneficial, including cross-jurisdiction income or profit flows such as withholding taxes on payments to non-residents.
He said if effectively implemented, the agreement will provide huge export opportunities for products manufactured in Nigeria including priority export products defined in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP).
“AfCFTA could potentially complement Nigeria’s national development agenda in addition to acting as a catalyst for economic diversification program.
“This offers Nigerian products and services, preferential access to the huge African market which currently sources over 85 per cent of its products imports from outside the continent,” he said.
“The agreement provides immense opportunities for Nigeria’s service companies to expand to Africa, especially those in financial services, e-commerce and the digital economy.
“Nigerian companies have built critical capacity in these sectors and have long desired to expand to Africa but were constrained by trade barriers,” he further said.
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed reiterated that the potentials of the deal is huge with a market of 1.2billion and Nigeria must endeavour to take the lead.
Ahmed, who is the Chairman Steering Committee, National Action Committee on AfCFTA noted: “There is no doubt that with a population of over 200million, GDP worth over 400billion and the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria will be a major economic factor under this agreement.”
She said, for Nigeria to maximally exploit the opportunities presented by the AfCFTA, all economic centres, tiers of government and human capacity must be involved.