In view of the immense benefits attached to the African Continrntal Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the President of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN., CON has called on the Federal Government not to hesitate further in signing the document.
He also said, as the economic hub of Africa, Nigeria cannot afford to be a sleeping giant while other countries take concrete steps in bringing economic prosperity to their respective nations which he says has the possibility of improving the livelihood of their citizens.
Prince Kayode said ACCI in particular, and the Organized Private Sector (OPS) have weighed side by side the provisions of the document and the stake of Nigeria in a global setting and have come to the conclusion that it has no illicit content.
He stressed that, the AfCFTA covers trade in goods, services and investment which does not provide for binding obligations with respect to intellectual property rights and competition policy, as it only requires state parties to cooperate in those areas.
“There is absolutely nothing to fear in that document that has accounted for the reason adduced as to why Nigeria is dragging its feet in signing it.
“It is actually an opportunity for the largest economy in Africa and concentration of the black population to leverage on and expand her sphere of economic influence across the region”, he said.
While rolling out the objectives of the agreement, the former Attorney-General of the Federation said, it has gone a long way to create a single market for goods or services, movement of persons, deepen economic integration of the African continent, create a liberalised market for goods and services through successive rounds of negotiations, contribute to the movement of capital and natural persons, facilitate investment and lay the foundation for the establishment of a continental customs union at a later stage.
According to him, other notable milestones expected to be achieved include: to promote and attain sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, gender equality, structural transformation of the state parties, enhance the competitiveness of the economies of state parties in the continent, global market as well as promote industrial development through diversification and add speed to regional value chain development.
“As we have failed to sign it, can we simply ponder as to while the rest of the continent did not wait on us? In fact, the world cannot wait for us. It simply keeps moving on and it will soon be too late for us to catch up with even smaller countries or economies that have keyed endorsed, ratified and are negotiating on how best to implement the agreement.
“I am not unaware that some business elements have raised issues of infrastructural deficit as well as the need to protect the local market. But such arguments, in my estimation, are not tenable. These are purely internal issues that can be handled at the local level.
“Nigerians are vibrant, competitive and resilient. We are everywhere in the region and even beyond. This document has expanded our scope of participation in economic activities and deepen our integration to the outside world.
“Let me also state categorically that, the agreement is not cast in stone. It has provisions for adjustments and renegotiation in every five years, just in case the practical situation does not urgur well with the parties.
“Looking at smaller economies tap into it in a single day and Nigeria dragging its feet pains me greatly. As it stands, we may not be able to maximally benefit from this project. Many countries have moved on and when we eventually sign it, we will be trailing them from behind and the requisite experience they have gathered in the process will place us in a disadvantageous position”, he sounded a note of caution.
The implementation principles of the agreement include, elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, progressive liberalisation of trade in services, cooperation on investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy, cooperation on customs matters and the implementation of trade facilitation measures, establishment of a mechanism for the settlement of disputes concerning State Parties’ rights and obligations in addition to establishing an institutional framework for the implementation of the AfCFTA.