By Charles Nwaoguji
The Director General of Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN), Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe has called on the stakeholders in the manufacturing sector to re-think their stand on African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) as this would boost Nigeria’s economy in the long run.
Osakwe, who stated this at the stakeholders’ forum on ACFTA, held over the weekend in Lagos, said that the ACFTA would further offers a window of opportunity for African countries to boost intra-African trade, to diversify, structurally transform, and meet other important development objectives and poverty-related goals the continent is committed to under its Agenda 2063 – of which the ACFTA is a flagship project – and the global Agenda 2030.
H e said that the ACFTA is a product of the Lagos plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty which Nigeria cannot afford to be missing.
He noted that if implemented, the ACFTA could improve the African economy twofold, adding that the ACFTA could also boost the continent’s trade in industrial products by over 50 percent.
“When a continent starts prospering economically, then the welfare of its people, the standard of living, education, health care and all, improve,” he said.
He stressed that the continent would becomes less susceptible to conflict, adding that this is because no one will support a conflict that has the potential to jeopardise their income and prosperity.
He explained that by 2015, intra-Africa trade was US$170 billion. This constituted a mere 5 percent of the European intra-trade. The figures go further to state that 40 percent of Africa’s intra-trade was from informal trading, meaning not recorded and perhaps no major benefits to the economy.
“It is an established fact and common knowledge that Nigeria is the giant of Africa and the leading economy on the continent. In recognition of that role, Nigeria was elected as Chairman of the Negotiating Forum for the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA). That role has been discharged excellently by our Negotiation team and legal experts,” he said.
He said that Nigeria remains the biggest economy in Africa and should not trade it leadership position for short term fear of protectionism.
“ We are also not compelled to liberalize beyond our negotiated commitments nor our power for domestic regulations taken away from us,” he added.
He stated that what is left now is for Nigeria to sign the agreement , so that the productivity sector can on board with other counterparts in Africa continent,
adding that Nigeria cannot afford to back out from this noble project that will not only move Nigeria’s economy forward but entire Africa’ economy .
“We shall do our best, to see that the interest of Nigerian manufacturers are protected in terms of finished products being moved into the country are well checked. That has being the fears of other countries in the continent but we will do our best by putting the necessary things in place to achieve the objectives of ACFTA,” he stated.
Speaking at the event, the President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Babatunde Paul Ruwase said that while Nigeria and South Africa, the two largest economies in Africa are yet to sign the trade agreement was because of economic and security implications.
Ruwase said that the private sector high points of argument for Nigeria not signing the ACFTA is for the fear of numerous bilateral trade agreements of some AU counties with the rest of the world and Nigeria’s underdeveloped industrial and infrastructural sector.
He argued that this would potentially make Nigeria a dumping ground due to Nigeria uncompetitive manufacturing profile, market size and population.
“We hope that with the explanation giving by the DG of NOTN, it will go well with the Nigerian manufacturing sector and other service sectors of the economy, “ he added.