• Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Nigeria’s intra-Africa trade data show no clue of AfCFTA impact

Nigeria’s intra-Africa trade data shows no clue of AfCFTA input

It has been six months since the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) took off on January 1, but impossible to say how it has contributed to Nigeria’s trade with other African countries, even as official data shows exports that were on the increase now suddenly dropped by half, while imports increased.

The latest news on the AfCFTA secretariat’s website is from April 27, announcing that Wamkele Mene, the secretary-general, had a negative COVID test result on return to Accra from ‘a mission outside the country’, which hosts the secretariat.

Till date, no information has been publicly made available as to if or how the trade agreement is impacting trade on the continent. No data on any activities that may have been executed or progress towards full trade is available.

However, Nigeria’s exports to other African countries has declined for the first time in five years within the first quarter, with data from the National Bureau of Statistics foreign trade report showing a year-on-year decline of 54 percent when compared to the same period of 2020. Conversely, imports from other African countries increased by 51 percent within the same period.

From N393.8 billion worth of exports across Africa in the first quarter of 2017, Nigeria’s exports increased in that same period of every subsequent year, recording N979 billion in 2020, before dipping to N449.8 billion this year’s first quarter. Even though the final tally at the end of 2020 was lower than the previous full year, it is hard to imagine how 2021 would end with the year already starting weak.

On the other hand, imports with an unstable pattern of increasing and decreasing, surged 51 percent in the first quarter of 2021, with Nigeria importing N183.4 billion worth of goods from other African countries, from N121.4 billion in the same period of 2020.

Read Also: AfCFTA: What social enterprises need to know

It remains unclear if AfCFTA is contributing to the trade pattern already being seen in Nigeria, even as it appears little is happening, at least publicly. Another poser has been; are the engines of AfCFTA itself being too slow to roar to life?

“It is not right to say it has been slow. What will be correct is to say it is a process, and the process is on, one that involves national laws,” said Demitta Gyang, assistant chief negotiator, AfCFTA/ECOWAS at the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations.

According to her, whether one is able to export under AfCFTA would involve national laws. It is also a process that involves customs infrastructure as well as the readiness of exporters themselves to take advantage of the market that has been created.

“It is a process that has come a long way in these six months,” she asserted when the question was put to her during a recent webinar organised by the Nigeria-British Chamber of Commerce. She was, however, silent on what the value or volume of transactions have been so far.

Kabir Ibrahim, a member of Nigeria’s National Action Committee on AfCFTA, also told BusinessDay “Work is going on but you know this is the private sector, most people when the going is very good they hardly mention it.”

Ibrahim stated there are people in different businesses, including manufacturers who have started benefitting but are not talking about it. It is there, silent but all the institutions are being made aware and repositioned to be able to play well. The export promotion council is also working to ensure all these things key into their protocol.

“When things are going well and there is opportunity to make money, people don’t talk about it. It is only when they experience difficulties they start complaining,” said Ibrahim who is also Co-lead of the Agriculture and Agribusiness sector of the NAC.

Has anyone executed a transaction from Nigeria that he is personally aware of? “Honestly, I cannot put my hands on facts and figures,” he replied.

However, for Emmanuel Ijewere, CEO of Best Foods, his first financial transaction on the basis of AfCFTA will come up between October and November with new business partners from Rwanda, although he wouldn’t give detail so that his “competitors won’t latch on to it”.

He also stated that the AfCFTA infrastructure is “just beginning to warm up. I know a lot of people especially in the agricultural space are having a better relationship with those from other countries.”

Personally, he says his business has now “established relationship with organisations in Namibia and Rwanda, increased my relationship with those in Ghana and there’s another in Cote D’Ivoire so it is just warming up. It is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash.”

Until better clarity is available on what component of Nigeria’s current and subsequent trade data can be attributed to AfCFTA, it will remain impossible to ascertain if and when the trade deal begins to make a real impact.