Industry experts in the private and public sectors including Herbert Wigwe, CEO, Access Bank plc; Yewande Sadiku, executive secretary/CEO, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), and Olusegun Omisakin, director of research/chief economist, Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), last week, discussed crucial economic trends, government policies and other issues that can affect businesses in Africa’s rapidly evolving market.
At the sixth edition of the Vantage Forum, an annual high-profile business event organised by The Elevation Church (TEC), the business leaders analysed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, its economic implications and how Nigerians can maximise the opportunities it presents through innovation.
The AfCFTA was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. The agreement was brokered by the African Union (AU) in March 2018. It requires members to remove tariffs from goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent.
Wigwe highlighted the benefits to be derived from the AfCFTA by Nigerians, stating that the initiative would boost intra-African trade from 16 to 52 percent, making Nigerian Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) more competitive with access to a larger market.
“The AfCFTA could be the most important opportunity offered to African countries in a long time. This is because, for many years, the absence of a regional economic framework has limited the continent’s development,” Wigwe said.
According to Wigwe, the benefit of the initiative to Nigerians includes opportunities for business expansion, removal of tariffs on commodities, infrastructural development and free trade.
However, to take advantage of these opportunities, Nigeria needs to increase the quality of its products and improve its infrastructure, he said.
According to Sadiku, a senior Federal Government official, Africa is the “flavour of the moment.” This is because of the future prospects of the continent. For instance, 60 percent of the African population is under 35, indicating a youthful and vibrant population.
“Nigeria has a youthful population and they need to be primed for readiness to take advantage of these opportunities. To maximise the prospects it presents, the private sector needs to be heavily involved in the actualisation of the AfCfTA,” Sadiku said.
The investment expert also listed the things needed to convert these exciting prospects into value, including skills, capital, and infrastructure and marketing resources.
On his part, Omisakin carried out an analysis of the current state of the Nigerian economy, including current trends, what could take the country back into recession and how to position to take advantage of key indices.
Emphasising on the importance of security in enhancing business activities, Omisakin said: “The foundation of all business activities is based on the premise that goods and services are secure. Insecurity increases risk and raises the cost of doing business.”
In his remarks, Godman Akinlabi, the chief host/lead pastor of TEC, said in the midst of the economic complexity in the country, there was always ‘certainty in uncertainty,’ explaining that getting access to the right information could give a measure of certainty.
“To make greatness common, we must stand on the premise that everyone has a seed of greatness. At TEC, we organise events like this to get people access to the kind of information that will increase greatness in them,” he said.
TEC has hosted Vantage Forum for six years with each one focusing on a different topic. This year’s edition is themed ‘Harnessing Business Opportunities through Innovation in Africa’s 1.3 Billion People Market.’