Mr Wamkele Mene, Secretary General, Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), has described the AfCFTA as the driver for Africa’s recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the Continent’s industralization growth and development agenda.
Mene made the assertion during a courtesy visit to the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Friday in Lagos.
Mene said the Continent’s ability to trade in merchandise and services inclusive of the airlines industry, tourism and other components were absolutely critical to its recovery.
Mene stated that the continent before the onset of the pandemic was a significant market with a growing rate of 3.4 per cent annually, and the producer of six out of ten fastest growing economies of the world.
“With COVID-19, we went from that to a contraction of a magnitude that we have not had in about 30 years.
“But with the objectives of the AfCFTA, by 2035, by dabbling into Africa trade, Africa is on the path to industrial development and we are building a capacity to diversify our exports within and outside the continent.
He noted: “The projection of International Monetary Fund that by 2022 has some positive growth trajectory of 2.1 per cent for Sub-Saharan Africa if we roll out vaccines on time and implement the AfCFTA.
“So the AfCFTA is the driver for Africa’s recovery with all the sectors components critical to its recovery,” he said.
Addressing the obvious challenges with rules of Origin under the agreement, the AfCFTA Secretary General stated that the agreement had rules that catered to discipline, dumping of products, subsidized products, preferential safeguards amongst others.
He, however, urged for concerted efforts by the private sector, AfCFTA Secretariat and regulatory agencies to build greater capacity for the custom authorities of participating countries to engender the success of the agreement.
This, he said, would ensure the enforcement of discipline and build the capacity of the customs services to implement the trade rules of the AfCFTA effectively.
Mene lauded the efforts of the Nigerian government at establishing its trade remedy authorities to address investigation, issues of origin and punitive measures where necessary.
“At the moment, only two countries-Egypt and South Africa have their trade remedy authorities ready and this has the ability to prevent dumping and address many other challenges associated with inter-African trade.
“Nigeria is at the advance stage of establishing a trade recovery remedy authority and this is a very positive step,” he said.
In her remarks, Mrs Toki Mabogunje, President, LCCI, said the AfCFTA was largely a story of immense excitement and expectation among the Nigerian business community because of the inherent opportunities.
Mabogunje said that the AfCFTA would make the continent more integrated, united and prosperous especially in the light of the numerous benefits of a larger market.
She, however, expressed anxiety over the competitiveness challenges and possible import surge that would come with the continental integration deal.
“The Chamber believes it’s an opportunity for countries to scale up their competitiveness by improving their investment climate.
“Ultimately, it would be to the benefit of the economies of the continent and the welfare of our citizens,” she said.
Mene would be a special guest at the LCCI’s forum themed: ” AfCFTA: Roadmap to a successful implementation” scheduled for March 16, 2021.
Also expected in attendance is Mr Victor Liman, Acting Chief Trade Negotiator/Director General, Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN).