President Muhammmadu Buhari on Monday charged the Presidential Committee for Impact and Readiness Assessment of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, to address risks associated with signing the AFCFTA agreement.
The President while inaugurating the committee on Monday, at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, charged members to address issues raised by the nationwide sensitization committee set up to advise government on Nigeria’s membership of the AFCFTA
The President had identified creation of the free trade area is a worthy and commendable idea, adding that “the population, resources, geographical spread and other theoretical trade indicators of the continent highlight the tremendous potential that exist if we can crack the various barriers that hinder intra-African trade.”
The President had noted that Nigeria,s vision for intra-Africa trade is for the free movement of “made in Africa goods”. added that such “goods and services must have significant African content in terms of raw materials and value addition to the production and service processes.”
“Therefore, the Continental Free Trade Area must be packaged and implemented to achieve this vision. This is the only way the majority of Africans will positively benefit from it.”
The President identified many years of import dependency as the bane of the country’s present predicament
“For too long, our domestic productive capabilities were neglected in favour of imports. Nigeria was using its hard-earned oil revenues to create jobs offshore instead of developing the manufacturing potential of our very vibrant, young and dynamic population.
“Many of our challenges today, whether relating to security, unemployment or corruption are rooted in the fact that we have not been able to domesticate the production of our most basic requirements. The recent recession, which was as a result of our over dependence on external factors, is a clear case of why Nigerians must now aspire to self-sufficiency
Buhari who stated that the country is now prepared to breakaway from signing agreement, that will not provide maximum benefits for its citizens, added that “ You are to address issues raised and address any challenges arising from the nationwide sensitization programs on the AFCFTA.
The committees inaugurated by the President include the Steering committee and the Support Technical Committee work group.
There was a seven months period of preparation to the event culminating into the committee’s inauguration.
BusinessDay recalls that the government had inaugurated a nationwide stakeholder sensitization team to engage them on the implications of signing the AfCFTA
The team’s work was to also help government understand the true impact of the agreement on Nigeria and Nigerians, based the existing domestic and regional policies as it relates to trade.
Results of the consultations, show that the stakeholders raised key issues including need to check abuse of rules of origin,Smuggling arising from difficulties in border controls, un-quantified impacts of legacy preferential trade agreements.
He listed the issues to include, abuse of rule of origin, low capacity to conduct international trade,” amongst others
Other issues raised include Low capacity and capabilities of local business to conduct international trade, cost of finance, Insufficient energy; and
Transport logistics infrastructure, to mention a few.
The President however, said these issues are being addressed by the ERGP, even as he said government is “determined to break away from the past practice of committing Nigeria to treaties without a definite implementation plan to actualize the expected benefits while mitigating the risks”
“We cannot go back to the days of signing agreements without understanding and planning for the consequences of such actions. And our country being the worse off.
“Your task as members of the AfCFTA Impact and Readiness Assessment Committee is to address the issues raised during the nationwide stakeholder consultations on the AfCFTA.
“You are expected to develop short, medium and long-term measures that will address any challenges arising therefrom.
The Steering committee, headed by Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelama and Chief of Staff to the President , Abba Kyari as co-chairman, is expected to submit its reports in 12 weeks, designing a clear roadmap for Nigeria as it relates to the AfCFTA.
Tony Ailemen, Abuja