Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has commended the idea behind the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) agreement, while reiterating Nigeria’s position on it.
Osinbajo restated Nigeria’s position on the agreement in Lagos at the official opening ceremony of Africa Trade Forum, 2018.
The event, under the theme: “AfCTA Ratification and implementation: A Game Changer for African Ecomomies”, drew participants from across Africa.
Nigeria has been reluctant in signing up to the AfCTA agreement, despite being one of the major initiators in 2015.
The Vice President, however, assured that in spite of not signing up to the agreement, the government has over the last few months held consultations with major stakeholders on the benefits of the AfCTA agreement.
According to him, the consultation process remains diligent, transparent and is yielding positive results.
Osinbajo noted that issues about how the AfCTA Agreement will impact on local industries in Nigeria had been the major concern.
He said that another focus of the stakeholders forum was on how to resolve trade dispute with recourse to Customs and border issues.
“We must also strengthen local businesses due to effects of the Trade Agreement Area and I believe other African stakeholders will take this feedback from Nigeria seriously,” he said.
Osinbajo said the establishment of AfCTA Agreement had prospects for increase in trade among African countries.
Also in attendance at the opening ceremony were Nigeria’s Minister of Trade, Mr Okechukwu Enelamah, and Chairman of the Dangote Group, Mr Aliko Dangote, amongst others.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the level of intra-African trade, Dangote questioned the rationale behind formation of regional economic blocs, if trade barriers still exist among African States.
He bemoaned the frustrations and difficulties his group often goes through in exporting products to neighbouring African countries.
Dangote said that in as much as he is not opposed to Nigeria signing the AfCTA Agreement, all bottlenecks that work against Nigeria’s interest must be looked into.
For the Commissioner for Trade and Industry in African Union Commission, Mr Albert Muchanga, the initiative was carefully designed in the best interest of Africa.
He assured the forum that all grey areas raised that could hinder the implementation of the Agreement would be looked into.
Day 1 of the two-day event witnessed three experts meetings — Agricultural Transformation; Increasing Power Supply through Cross-border Networks; and Harnessing Data for Development.
Other meetings scheduled for Saturday include Breakout sessions on “What next”, Preparing Tariff and Services Offers; and AfCTA National Implementation Strategies.