By Romanus Okoye
Experts have predicted that the commencement of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AcFta) in January 2021 will boost the economies of member nations.
They gave the assurance at a webinar organized by the Alliance Law Firm, Lagos with the theme: “Leveraging international trade law for the recovery of the global economy during the post COVID-19.”
Participants at the webinar are the keynote speaker, who is the president of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah; director of Agriculture and Commodities division, World Trade organization, Edwini Kessie; Partner, King and Spalding LLP, Mr. Daniel Crosby; director of legal services, African Export-Import Bank, Ms. Samallie Kiyingi and the immediate past registrar, UNIRMCT, Dr. Olufemi Elias.
Others are: The chairman, Nigeria Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL), Mr. Seni Adio (SAN); chairman, International Trade Law Committee and managing partner, Alliance law firm, Uche Val Obi (SAN) and the principal partner, Folashade Alli and Associates, Mrs. Folashade Alli moderated the event.
In his address, Prof. Oramah explained that in the absence of international cooperations towards a shared growth and prosperity at the world level, Africa has to take her destiny in her own hands. “Thank God our leaders have risen to the challenge. The African Continental Free trade agreement provides that alternative. The journey for a rich African has already begun with the signing of the AcFta,” he said
He lamented that the emergence COVID-19 caused the shift of the commencement of the Agreement from July 2020 to January 2021 and stressed that AcFta is expected to boost inter-Africa trade. He charged lawyers to advise governments and stakeholders on the essential elements of the agreement.
Speaking on how Nigeria could use the emergence of COVID-19 to address its challenges, the organizer, Uche Val Obi (SAN), noted that the country hesitated in signing the agreement on the excuse that it wanted to carry all stakeholders along.
He however maintained that it was never in contest that AcFta was a very relevant continental pact meant for the economic growth of member states. According to him, the closure of land borders by Nigeria around October 2019 to curb smuggling, aggravated the situation.
This is because it was coming at the heels of the pressure to sign the pact,” he said. “COVID-19 provided an opportunity to assess the contribution of international trade to the global economy. Consequently, it has become imperative for concerted efforts to be made at the regional level to restore things.”