By Amaechi Ogbonna
Amid its huge technical and infrastructural challenges, the Federal Government on Monday, said it was fully set to play its traditional leadership role at the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) which kicked off January 1, this year.
Speaking in Lagos at a briefing on Nigeria’s preparedness to compete in the world largest single economic bloc for Made in Africa goods and services, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Public Sector Matters and Secretary, National Action Committee on AfCFTA, Mr Francis Anatogu, said the country was ready to take African market by storm.
“AfCFTA is Africa’s Nation’s Cup in Trade because every time Nigeria plays at the African Nations’ Cup, there is no tribe, no religion, no political party and no ethnicity, as everybody is a Nigerian and so in the AfCFTA, every state in Nigeria must identify at least on product where it can be number one in Africa” He said.
He said that despite the challenges of infrastructure and a struggling manufacturing base, Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa, will hit the market with an array of competencies including financial services, transportation, and the Information Communications Technology (ICT) among others where it has demonstrated significant capacity over the years, while government would gradually invest to expand production capacity, funding for manufacturers, human capacity development and infrastructure upgrade.
According to him, Nigerian banking and insurance sectors already have strong footholds in parts of Africa to enable them serve several other countries on the continental economic bloc.
Anatogu also cited the nation’s rising ICT sector as another area of its core competence that would help the country occupy a commanding height in comity of AfCFTA states as other countries leverage this potential to grow and remain competitive in the emerging economic order.
To further broaden the scope of the nation’s manufacturing sector, the presidential aide said his committee made up of about 200 experts from the public and private sectors has already commenced extensive consultations with various stakeholders including state governors to mobilise them into pushing forward goods and services out of over 5516 products lines being packaged for 90 percent customs and tariff rebates over the next 10 years, where they could possibly be the best on the continent. He said his committee was also working with several Federal Government agencies including the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, the NEXIMBANK, and the Bank of Industry among others to help mobilise local manufacturers to increase their capacity in readiness for the continental African economic bloc. This is also in addition to the small and medium enterprises aggregation module which would facilitate the formalisation of operators in the informal sector to enable them enjoy tax rebate available for participants in the AfCFTA.
To solve the country’s nagging power challenge plaguing manufacturers in both the Small and Medium Enterprises and the large, Anatogu said the Government was indeed working on the mix of solar panels and mini grid solutions to meet the energy needs of companies producing for AfCFTA’s 1.3 billion consumer base.