Trade experts on Wednesday validated Nigeria’s implementation strategies for success under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).
They spoke in Lagos at the final validation roundtable by stakeholders before presentation to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval.
In his comments, Mr Francis Anatogu, a former Secretary, National Action Committee on AfCFTA, said the validation of Nigeria’s strategic choices on how to win under the AfCFTA was critical.
According to Anatogu, Nigeria’s strategies had outlined deliberate choices based on its market’s location, the country’s strengths and areas of preparedness for Nigerian businesses to trade in Africa and beyond.
He said that the country, understanding its problems of revenue and foreign income, needed to fashion a way out via increased productivity and international trade.
Anatogu said that within the strategy document, some policies have been identified for updating and others showed need for the creation of new laws to make sure Nigeria leads Africa.
“We are validating the strategies and also sensitising businesses on choices for better positioning.
“Once the strategies are validated, it would be sent to the Chairman of the National Action Committee, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and would require approval of FEC.
“At the end of the day, some of these policies would need to be backed by law, leading to update of laws that we have already and creation of new laws to make sure Nigeria leads Africa.
“Trade is technical and complex, so understanding how each company in Nigeria can trade and win, is important,” he said.
Also, Prof. Jonathan Aremu, a Consultant, Common Investment Market, ECOWAS, said that the country’s strategy considered not only the technical aspects of compliance, but also the opportunities for substantial domestic macroeconomic reforms.
Aremu said that the strategy, which repositioned the country’s economy for AfCFTA, would impact trade, investment, private sector engagement and sustainable productive capacity.
“The strategy, therefore, provides the logic of positioning of Nigeria for AfCFTA implementation with strong institutional and governance framework by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government collaborating with the private sector.
“Positioning Nigeria for better macroeconomic performance, under the AfCFTA, requires better infrastructure, freer movement of goods, people and capital.
“It also requires improved digital connectivity, access to finance, supportive business environment, adequate investments and trade facilitation,” he said.
Contributing, Mr Soji Awogbade, Consultant, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), said focus must be placed on ensuring that extant domestic laws were examined for alignment with the provisions of AfCFTA for its successful implementation.
Awogbade said that 378 relevant laws, regulations and policies were reviewed to determine whether there was divergence with the spirit and objectives of the AfCFTA.
According to him, 26 laws were found to contain provisions somewhat in conflict with the goals of the AfCFTA.
He recommended that an AfCFTA Domestication Bill should be drafted and sponsored as an Executive Bill to facilitate smooth legislative process.
“The Nigeria International Trade Commission Bill, proposed by the TIG Consultant, should amongst other provisions, endow the Minister of Trade with the powers to review and designate target state parties for reciprocity considerations under local regulatory requirements.
“Adequate engagement should be held with the Ministry of Trade to review and revalidate the inactive trade between Nigeria and Algeria, Egypt and Morocco.
“Adequate consultations/engagements should be held with stakeholders in the service sectors where legislative reviews are recommended to enable participatory and expeditious acceptance of the proposed reviews,” he said.
In his remarks, Dr Evelyn Ngige, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, called for workable and patriotic policies that would improve the lot of Nigeria under the AfCFTA.
“Policies are sensitive and if not worked on properly, would not turn out well so the charge is to come out with policies that would improve trade for Nigeria first then for Africa,” Ngige represented by Simon Omo-Ezomo, Director, Special Duties in the ministry said.