Zenith Bank has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to develop a state of the art platform known as the SMARTAfCFTA.
The MoU was signed at the eighth edition of Zenith Bank International Trade Seminar in Lagos on Tuesday. SMARTAfCFTA is a single portal for trade information for the continent on trade. The Bank will fund the portal for trade information in Africa with one million dollars.
Speaking at the event, Ebenezer Onyeagwu, group chief executive officer/ managing director at Zenith Bank, said the collaboration aims to unlock the vast opportunities presented by AfCFTA not only for Nigeria’s economic prosperity but also for advancing trade across African countries.
“With the MoU, Zenith will be developing the smart AfCFTA portal which is going to serve as a straight porter that will showcase African products and services and where they can be found,” he said.
The annual event themed ‘Nigerian Non-Oil Export Industry -The Present, The Future’ explored ways to unlock opportunities in Nigeria’s non-oil export by gaining valuable insights into the sector’s present state and the future prospects.
Commending the Bank, Wamkele Mene, secretary-general of AfCFTA, said the partnership demonstrates its commitment to digitisation of trade in Africa.
“What many of you may not be aware of and the MD may be too modest to say is that Zenith Bank was the first bank to come to me to say we want to partner with you. The chairman said the one million dollars was to demonstrate the commitment as a bank to digitisation in Africa.
“So, the portal wasn’t my idea; it wasn’t our idea at the AfCFTA Secretariat. It was Zenith Bank that stepped up and said this has to be done,” he said.
According to the National Bureau of Statics, Nigeria’s non-oil export contribution to GDP was 1.22 percent in 2022, the highest since 2019 (1.73 percent).
“Since we commenced the advocacy for non-oil exports through the Bank’s annual trade seminar in 2016, there has been some modest progress in the contribution of non-oil exports to GDP,” Onyeagwu said.
He added that the contribution of the non-oil exports to both GDP and total exports is still abysmally low, less than two percent at the best in 2019.
According to Onyeagwu, despite the considerable success of the initiatives and others, the non-oil export sector still encounters various multifaceted challenges such as inefficiency, congestion and gridlock in Nigerian ports, poor transportation system, unreliable power supply, high inflation rate and cost of funds.
The World Bank estimates that the effective implementation of AfCFTA can boost Africa’s income by $450 billion by 2035 while adding $76 billion to the income of the rest of the world.
“These figures highlight the immense opportunities the agreement can bring to Africa and the global economy. Regardless of the challenges, the non-oil export sector has future prospects and growth opportunities,” Onyeagwusa said.
According to Kingsley Obiora, deputy governor of economic policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria, between the periods of 2001-2011, the non-oil export GDP of Nigeria was 2.8 percent.
“And you can imagine in the next decade, which is 2012-2022, we are still at 1.2 percent. We need to be growing much faster because smaller countries are doing much better.
“So, there cannot be a better time to gap this future, work on non-oil exports and make sure that we are growing beyond the 1.2 percent. And I am very excited that the bank has continued its tradition to call attention to non-oil exports,’ he said.