The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), on Wednesday said Nigeria is set to host the Africa Trade Forum 2018.
The communication section of the commission said this in a statement posted on its website, adding that the forum would hold between November 2 and November 3 in Lagos.
It also said that the forum was being organised by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and co-organised by the ECA, The Rockefeller Foundation and the African Union Commission (AUC).
According to the commission, the forum is expected to bring together stakeholders from across the continent, political and governance spheres, the private sector and entrepreneurs, philanthropists, academia, researchers and development partners.
The statement added that the forum was aimed at discussing the process for realising the AfCFTA.
“The AfCFTA was signed in March 2018 by 44 African countries and if ratified, would become one of the world’s largest trading blocs.
“It is also the biggest trade agreement signed since the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was established, bringing together 1.3 billion people with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than two trillion dollars in a single market.
‘“The agreement aims to provide improved competition and lower business costs.’’
The ECA said that the forum’s purpose was to look into the challenges and opportunities of the AfCFTA in individual African states.
“It is to also better understand how AfCFTA can drive economic development and prosperity on the continent for all African citizens.
“It will also provide a platform to discuss Africa’s participation and ownership of the AfCFTA objectives and examine how intra-regional trade can enable prosperity in Africa.
“The forum will bring together stakeholders to determine how nations can move from a signed AfCFTA to real action and implementation.’’
The statement also quoted the Executive Secretary, ECA, Ms Vera Songwe as saying “in an age of trade wars, Africa is sending a strong message’’.
“That trade deals and reforms can be approached through consensus-building and cooperation, leaving no one behind.
“In order to ensure the AfCFTA has a game-changing impact on African economies, we must now develop clear strategies for product diversification and inclusive implementation.
“The speed at which countries have signed and are now ratifying the AfCFTA agreement underscores the momentum behind this African flagship initiative,’’ she said.
The AUC says the AfCFTA is critical for Africa’s economic competitiveness and development, according to the statement.
It said that once the AfCFTA becomes fully operational, African enterprises would be exposed to large economies of scale and scope.
“With expanded production and competitiveness, as well as increased investment, our enterprises will be able to increase Africa’s share of global trade, creating opportunities for economic development and the prosperity of African countries.”
Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, said that the idea of an integrated African market to industrialise Africa, spur growth, enhance welfare and create jobs had been around for a long time.
“However, with the actual emergence of the AfCFTA in 2018, the decision was taken by the government to mobilise stakeholders in the Nigerian economy.
“To understand its details, interpret its opportunities and reorganise our economic system for coherence and coordination if the opportunities of the AfCFTA are to be realised and maximised.
“This forum is a unique opportunity to proactively engage with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that AfCFTA works for Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Mamadou Biteye, the Managing Director, Africa, The Rockefeller Foundation said the foundation was delighted to support the ECA and AUC to set the table and steer the conversation on the AfCFTA with Africa’s leaders.
He said the forum was an opportunity to work together to address challenges, discuss solutions and increase awareness about the agreement’s ability to be a transformative tool that improves the lives of millions of Africans, especially the most vulnerable.