Freight firms urge Nigeria to tap benefits of AfCFTA

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National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to establish necessary structures that would enable the country to maximise the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (“AfCFTA Agreement”).

The President of the association, Mr Increase Uche, said in Lagos that when necessary structures are put in place, the current trend whereby Nigeria is known as an import dependent country will be reversed and the economy diversified.

President Muhammadu Buhari on July 7, 2019 signed the agreement in Niamey, Niger Republic, thus making Nigeria the 53rd country to have signed it.

The Agreement seeks to create a single market for goods and services by facilitating free movement of goods, services and investment within the African continent.

“The current stand by the government to implement the African Union policy is a welcome development, coupled with the fact that some technocrats have assembled to look at the issues of the agreement.

“With the opportunities that are inherent in being part of the moving trend, what Nigeria needs now is to put the necessary structures in place to ensure its applicability which will diversify the economy,” he said.

Uche noted that diversifying the economy would mean that government needed to spread out industries across the length and breadth of Nigeria, carrying out a thorough survey of what kind of industry that are needed and the location.

He noted that if industries established at strategic locations go into full production, it would attract more investment; not only foreign direct investment, but even local investment, because of the many opportunities that would be created.

The NAGAFF president also urged government to take the agreement seriously by providing enabling environment to get things done.

“Not being able to produce enough to export is what is actually sinking the economy of the country, and we cannot survive when the economy is not productive.

“For the structures, government needs to look at the country’s port and make it competitive, as businesses are dying, investments are being depleted every day as a result of the state of the ports.

“Government needs to unbundle the ports system, because in the long run if industries are created, the port should be efficient to meet the requirement of transporting raw materials and cargo to its destination.

“Now, the industries Logistics Performance Index (LPI) is growing low everyday and as such things that have to do with customs, clearance procedure, transportation system and the ease of doing business need to be scaled up.

“The rail network is also part of the issue and should be improved upon, because for the ports to operate efficiently and effectively, it needs to be connected to the hinterland,” he said.

He said that presently, the dependence on the road infrastructure was overwhelming and overstretched, causing traffic gridlock and slow pace of port development.

Uche called for human capacity development, the need for competent personnel to drive the economy even for the AfCFTA.

He said that the issue of the country becoming a dumping ground because of signing the AfCFTA could only arise if the status quo remains the same, with government failing to put structures in place.

The NAGAFF president urged that the constituted committee that would drive the AfCFTA should be made up of technocrats drawn from all the sub sectors of the economy.