The Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) has allayed the fears of Nigeria’s organised private sector (OPS) over the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), charging president Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sign the agreement before the August deadline.
President of NACCIMA, Alaba Lawson, said at the association’s conference in Lagos that the body’s position on the treaty was positive because Nigeria stands to benefit more than the perceived disadvantages.
“If Nigeria appends its signature its entrepreneurs and other business operators would exploit the opportunity and expose themselves to compete with their counterparts in the sub region. SMEs will thrive better because this is a veritable platform that can provide jobs for millions of people just like China did,” she said.
According to her, Nigeria could benefit in terms of increase in revenue collection via imports duties and taxes, should the government intensify efforts to eradicate non-tariff and regulatory barriers to international trade from the customs department and ensure that multiple licenses and taxes are eliminated. She therefore called on the government to create enabling environment and install infrastructure and other amenities that would make intra-continental free trade seamless.
Lawson, speaking on the feasibility and viability of AfCFTA, charged the National Assembly to strictly review and pass the N228 billion supplementary budget submitted by President Buhari to enable critical projects to be executed, adding that capital projects must be given top priority.
Out of 55 African countries 44 have signed the AfCFTA reached by heads of state and government of African Union (AU) at its last summit held in Kigali, Rwanda. Only 22 countries are required to make the treaty effectual.
Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania are among the nine countries that initially failed to sign the trade agreement in Kigali, while Angola, Algeria, Morocco and Libya are among the forty- four nations who have already inked their signatures to this effect.
The purpose of AfCFTA is to establish a single market for Africa to transact businesses using single currency, amongst others. Also, it would allow intra-African free movement of goods, services and investments and persons for business purposes, lift multiple and rigorous processes associated with clearance of persons and documents at Africa’s borders to facilitate the ease of doing business and expand intra-African trade through better synchronization and coordination of trade liberalization.
Nigeria, being the largest economy in Africa is yet to append its signature due to some ongoing consultations to garner experts’ advice from economists and analysts as well as from neighbouring countries on the implications of putting pen on the agreement.
Some countries have argued that the treaty would impact on government revenue and regional welfare, with estimated treasury increase of $4.1 billion annually, while others particularly the poorer economies are apprehensive that the benefits that would accrue from the free trade may not be equitably distributed among economies, and requested for more time to enable them circumspect its possible aftermath consequences.