Cosmas Omegoh, Lagos
The year 2020 is believed to be critical for African industrialisation. To this end, key stakeholders last week converged on Lagos for two days to fashion out what they hoped would be effective agenda for the industrialisation of Nigeria in particular and the continent in general.
The forum was the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), with the theme “Effective Implementation for Industrialisation and Inclusive Economic Economic Development in Nigeria.” The event held at Radisson Blu Hotel, Isaac John Street, Ikeja, Lagos.
The gathering had in attendance, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Adeniyi Adebayo; former governor of Ekiti State Chief Segun Oni, and an array of high-net-worth participants drawn from academia, banking, shipping, manufacturing, political space and other frontline stakeholders from various countries across Africa.
The key corporate participants and co-sponsors of the event were the Federal Government, Africa Union, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), ECA, and the European Union.
The activities at the event were divided into sessions with various moderators and discussants taking their turns.
In his opening speech, the Minister of Industry and Trade and Investment, Otumba Adebayo, expressed joy at Nigeria’s collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), recalling that UNECA had assisted several African countries to develop their strategies for implementation of the AfCFTA. He went on to acknowledge the contributions of the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and other stakeholder entities towards the success of the event.
He recalled that “President Buhari had maintained unequivocally that many of our challenges today, whether security, economy or corruption are rooted in the fact that we have not been able to domesticate the production of our most basic requirements.
“Simply put, Nigeria was using its oil revenues to create jobs offshore at the expense of our very vibrant, young and dynamic population.”
He informed that President Buhari further maintained that trade is very important to Nigeria and Africa, adding that “our vision for intra-African trade is that of free movement of ‘made-in-Africa goods.’ That is, goods and services made locally with significant African content in terms of raw materials and value addition.”
He said according to the President, “Nigeria’s vision for the AfCFTA is therefore free and fair intra-Africa trade that creates economic growth, wealth for investors and businesses, jobs and prosperity for our citizens.
The Minister maintained that the “Federal Government is determined to fully implement the terms of the AfCFTA and uphold its commitments to trade and regional integration.
“However, we will not allow smuggling and other predatory trade practices to continue unchecked as it undermines our economic development efforts and destroys local industries, leading to job losses.
“We also will not allow rogue traders to manipulate the rules of origin and disguise goods from outside the continent as made in Africa so as to qualify for duty free passage.
“For a successful implementation of AfCFTA, government has constituted this National Action Committee to among others, coordinate a wide range of actions at the domestic, regional and continental levels.
“At regional and continental levels, the National Action Committee shall coordinate relevant bodies to champion programmes to resolve the critical challenges. These include trade policy harmonization with neighbours and ECOWAS member states, smuggling and abuse of rules of origin, growing regional production capacity and value chains, and enforcing our borders and trade rules.
“At the domestic level, the National Action Committee (NAC) will work with MDAs and stakeholder groups to implement initiatives to enhance production and export trading capacity, improve infrastructure especially, power, logistics and quality infrastructure, as well as improving the trade environment including trade facilitation, ease of doing business, and fiscal and monetary policies.”
He maintained that it is clear that there is a need for a paradigm shift in how the private and public sectors engage with one another locally and with our counterparts in Africa, adding that the National Action Committee will therefore support existing effort to assist private and public sector actors to explore ways to develop new markets and relationships in a sustainable and mutually beneficial manner.”
He assured that the gathering was “in furtherance of our resolve to ensure that Nigeria is adequately prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that AfCFTA presents while mitigating the risks.
“Our objective for this event is to identify and/or validate specific, actionable and highly-impactful interventions that we will consider and adopt in our AfCFTA Readiness work programme.”
In his remarks, the UN Resident Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, informed the gathering that Nigerian AfCFTA Forum was happening at an opportune time “as we embark on the Decade of Action to accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (Goals).
“We are learning that industrialization, trade and job creation for young people remains a critical pathway to prosperity in Africa. SDG 1-6 is all about social investment while SDG 7-15 is focused on a functioning economy. This implies, for Africa to fund social investments, the economy must function, and industrialization and trade remains the gateway.”
While thanking the Federal Government of Nigeria, the African Union, ECOWAS and the UN Economic Commission for Africa for organising the forum, he further informed that “we have two important projects: Agenda 2063 for African Development and the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. The two agendas are aligned, and both aim at fair globalization, development that is sustainable and inclusive, and both cannot be implemented without financing. The size and breadth of these Agendas present both opportunities and challenges for governments and other development actors. Generating enough resources to reach these aspirational goals will be a major challenge.
“The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of 2015 provides the global framework for financing the implementation of the Agenda 2030. One of the key action areas is the enhancement of international trade as an engine for development. Trade, whether local, regional or international, will be critical. Trade, and trade policy are referenced across the different SDGs including the eradication of poverty (Goal 1), health and wellbeing (Goal 3), gender equality (Goal 5), decent work (Goal 8), industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9) and addressing inequalities (Goal 10), but the importance of international/regional trade will be particularly critical in three clusters of issues namely: Food Security (Goal 2); Sustainable Energy (Goals 7 and 12) and; Oceans (Goal 14).”
He lamented that “between 2018 and 2019, African growth decelerated due to mixed performance in Angola, South Africa and Nigeria, the three economies which account for more than a third of the continents GDP. Africa’s projected GDP growth rate is slightly higher than the projected population growth rate resulting in a per capita growth of less than one percent. Africa’s deficit is also forecast to be about 2.7 percent of GDP in 2020.”
He stated that “addressing these challenges will require funding, and reforming African policies to improve domestic resource mobilization. The relative low-tax revenue to GDP ratio of African countries suggests that there is still significant revenue that can be shifted towards sustainable development.”
He reminded the gathering that “we are here today to develop a coordinated programme for implementation of the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA is a continental agreement, but implementation will take place at the national level. We must work together to make it a success.
“For the AfCFTA to have a positive influence on long-term investment in productive capacities, we will need to develop appropriate supporting policies, build the requisite infrastructure and ensure an educated workforce. We will need to actively promote productive employment and decent work, women’s empowerment and food security and; reduction in inequalities.”
He assured that “the United Nations is here to support Nigeria to make the AfCFTA work for the county’s people, for the MSMEs, and for the women and youth entrepreneurs.”
He emphasisd that “making the AfCFTA a reality will require creating national institutions for implementing the agreement, in addition to institutional coordination mechanisms for execution between public sector, private sector and donors, adding that “the Nigerian government will need to identify new opportunities for diversification and value chain development under the AfCFTA, and complementary actions needed to overcome the existing constraints to intra-African trade.”
The opening presentation featured Outcomes of the Nigeria AfCFTA impact readiness assessment and plans of the National Action Committee for AfCFTA implementation, with Francis Anatogu, Senior Special Assistant Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters Matters as moderator and other as discussants.
The second session for the day focused on high-level business and thought leaders plenary: Using the AFCFTA as tool for poverty reduction and industrial development in Nigeria, with Bunmi Makinwa CEO, AUNIQUEI Communication as moderator, featuring Chief Segun Oni, Chief Innocent Chukwuma CEO of Innonson Motors among others as discussants.
The next session for the day focused on “Gearing up for AFCFTA implementation – the critical readiness requirement, moderated by Bunmi Makinwa with Osita Aboloma, DG/CEO, Standards Organisation of Nigeria and several others as discussants.
Next on the line was “Driving AFCFTA implementation – creating a joint work programme for government and private sector, with Major Gen Ishola Willaims (rtd) and several members of the academia in as discussants. And there was also “Driving AFCETA implementation – creating a joint work programme for government and private sector,” rounding off proceeding for the day.
The second day saw “ECOWAS – Responding to implementation challenges in West Africa” as the point for discussion, with Uzoamaka Madu, EU-Africa political commentator as moderator. This was followed by “Developing an AFCFTA strategy for Nigeria’s private sector and driving AFCFTA implementation – creating a joint work programme for government and the private sector” as well as “Enhancing trade facilitation and customs cooperation under the AFCFTA and “’Davos Style’ Plenary: Way forward – joining forces for phase 11 negotiation and implementation of the AFCFTA,” with many discussants, bringing the curtain on the two-day, high-level event.
Former governor of Ekiti State Chief Oni told our correspondent on the occasion that the forum geared to encourage the private sector because the members were the ones that would import and export and do the trade work. “So, we are trying to see what can be done to see that Nigeria gets the maximum benefits.”
He noted that the decisions at the forum would help in projecting where Nigeria and Africa ought to be in decades ahead in terms of trade.
He assured that the benefits of the strategies fashioned out would be harvested shortly, saying: “The results we expect first would be seen in terms of improvement in foreign exchange earnings from non-oil exports. And that means an increase in GDP.
“But my concern is that the results will only be realised if the implementation of the strategies is done to the letter.”