Judex Okoro, Calabar
The Director General of African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, has said the signing of the ACFTA will boost inter-African trade.
He described Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa and the 26th in the world, stands a greater chance of benefiting from the agreement.
Osakwe, who made this known at the stakeholders’ forum meant to collate views from critical partners from the South South part of the country, which held in Calabar recently, explained that the forum was to ensure that Nigerians make input into the agreement before the President appends his signature to it.
He said what they want to hear from people of the zone was what government needs to do and the peculiar challenges they face so as to factor them in and make the agreement meet the peculiar needs of Nigerians.
“What we want to hear from the people of the South South Zone is what the government should do alone, with PPP in order to leverage on the agreement because we are all stakeholders in the Nigerian Project. “We need to hear from the people what we need to do in order to facilitate the processes and make our products more competitive as against being complacent in the international market.” Stressing that ACFTA is not alien to the country as it is built from the 1980 Lagos Plan of Action, he said the peculiar needs of the country have been channeled into the agreement including the 10 per cent exclusion list, trade remedies, export duties as well as special economic zones, which will help position the economy against unfair trade practices.
Making his presentation, Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, said the continent’s unity and prosperity was linked to the signing of the ACFTA and has urged the President to assent to the agreement without delay.
According to the governor, the benefits inherent in the agreement are enormous for Nigeria in particular and Africa in general, arguing that signing the agreement will mark a major turnaround in the economy of the continent.
“Africa is the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy and the continent has to think big and it is time for Nigeria to assert that role,” Ayade said.