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AfCFTA: OPS wants FG to matchmake Nigeria, other African businesses for wealth creation

The Organised Private Sector, (OPS) has asked the Nigerian government to prioritise matchmaking Nigerian businesses with other African countries to widen opportunities for job and wealth creation as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement takes effect.

Some members of the OPS who spoke to BusinessDay, said the government must give the needed push by engaging knowledgeable ‘focal persons’ who would initiate, sustain discussions with different continental economic blocs in tapping into areas of strengths and creating more opportunities for economic growth.

“There are a lot of industrial and manufacturing opportunities in North Africa. I expect the government to designate focal persons to engage regional trade blocs in North, East, Central and Southern Africa and look at possible businesses, trade that could be collaborated upon to create opportunities for our people for wealth creation,” Adetokumbo Kayode, a former minister and immediate president of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told BusinessDay.

To make the most of the free trade agreement, Kayode noted that the government should also allow the private sector to drive trade and business. He said also that Nigeria needed to have a clear focus on how to go about having a focal contact point in East, North, Central and Southern Africa to expand trade.

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According to him, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, have a strong industrial base and are close to Europe and have been looking for an opportunity to enter into the Sub-Saharan market, and this is the right time to tap into the opportunities to matchmake industries while enhancing trade facilitation.

The aforementioned countries, according to Kayode, are areas he expects the government to look at focal persons on a sectoral basis to connect trade.

“Bring in the private sector and work with them and target sectoral business in various African regional blocs,” he said.

Also speaking, Issa Aremu, vice president of Industrial Trade Unions, said “The real deal in AfCFTA lies in trade in goods, adding “we must be prepared to tap into opportunities contained in the various value chains for job creation. The trade pact must offer us a solution to the rising concern of unemployment.”

According to Chijioke Ekechukwu, an economist and former director-general of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the government must take a step further in exploring opportunities in areas where Nigeria has competitive advantage.

“Our strength lies in the competitive advantage we have in agricultural products like cashew, nuts, Palm oil, cocoa, cotton, groundnut, sesame seed and the major latent advantage we have in refined crude oil,” Ekechukwu said, adding that Nigeria remains the largest producers of the aforementioned items in Africa.

“For Nigeria to compete favourably to create wealth, it must deepen products and standards in those value chains. There are many by-products of refined petroleum, like bitumen, paraffin, carbon black, and these can fetch us the much-needed foreign exchange,” he said.

Ekechukwu also urged the government to make concerted efforts to ensure that “these products are mass-produced for export, possibly through green farms on state by state basis”.

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