Africa’s future dependent on success of AfCFTA
Speakers at the national conference on African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) have resolved that Africa’s future, to a large extent, is dependent on the success the continent able to make of the agreement.
The objective of the agreement signed by African countries in Kigali, Rwanda in March, 2018 but came into effect in January 2021 is to create a single market, deepen economic integration and aid the movement of capital and people, thereby facilitating investment and trade through removal of bottlenecks such as tariffs within Africa.
Various speakers at the conference organised by the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrations of Nigeria (ICSAN) identified the challenges but opportunities Nigerians and other African countries can benefit from the agreement.
Leading the discussion, Akin Oyebode, a professor of law, said AfCFTA, if properly harnessed, can indeed become the panacea for the multifarious socio-economic difficulties afflicting the various African countries.
“The benefits of AfCFTA are immense and need to be harnessed soonest, more so as the trend toward integration is a world-wide phenomenon”, he said.
Oyebode advised that the synergy activated by synchronisation with programs, policies and plans of other African countries should be tapped by the member-states in order to jump-start their economies to a higher level.
Looking at the benefits that should accrue from the AFCFTA, Oyebode said the expected exponential rise in the market should be a stimulus to the productive base of the various economies and serve as an antidote to increase in unemployment, underemployment and general impoverishment of the African population.
He, however, regretted that since the take-off, the agreement has not secured the requisite traction. He linked this to similarity in the goods and products of the different African countries that did not avail the complementarity which diversity would have facilitated.
Again, “the inability or failure by many of the State-Parties to transform the Act into their domestic laws has not helped matters. Out of plain fear or docility, many African countries have been unable to be assertive or stand up to the wiles of imperialism”, he said.
In his paper at the conference, Oyesola Oyekunle, director, policy, planning and research and statistics at Nigeria Export Processing Authority (NEPZA) said intra – Africa trade, defined as the average of intra- Africa exports and imports, was around 2 percent during the period 2015- 2017, while comparative figures for America, Asia, Europe and Oceania were, respectively 47 percent, 61 percent, 67 percent and 7 percent.
Speaking on Nigeria infrastructural deficit and AfCFTA): What Connections? What Solutions? Oyekunle said poor infrastructure is one of the major obstacles to doing businesses in Nigeria.
Backing his statement from other experts’ view, he said Nigeria needs to overturn poor funding, poor governance, corruption, economic sabotage, poor maintenance culture which are largely responsible for inadequate infrastructure provisions in Nigeria.
In his remarks, the minister of industry, trade and investment, Richard Adeniyi Adebayo, identified PPP as key driver to the success of AFCTA. He also pledged to work with ICSAN to promote good governance.
Earlier, president of ICSAN Taiwo Owokolade said the institute would make available the recommendations of the conference to various stakeholders as input to national development.