A top Nigerian Trade Negotiator has allayed the fears of Nigerians regarding the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, noting that it is projected to lift 30 million citizens out of extreme poverty.
Adetola Onayemi, Head, Trade Partnership and Assistant Chief Negotiator for Nigeria as Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiator (NOTN) disclosed that the African initiative offers Nigerians robust opportunity out of poverty.
He stated this during the virtual Nairametrics summit tagged: “Regulatory outlook for the Nigerian economy in 2021”.
Speaking on the Theme “Addressing the Finance 2020 Bill, Petroleum Industry Bill and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement from Small business perspective”, he said that 70 million Africans would be out of unemployment if the AFCFTA is fully implemented.
“When people say Nigeria was forced into the (AfCFTA), I disagree because I know that is not correct.The actual negotiation started in 2017 and Nigeria was the one that led that negotiation. When signing the (AfCFTA)Agreement, there was also a document of freedom of movement declaration that some members must most sign up to. And what the (AfCFTA) Agreement does is that it creates a single liberalize market for trading of goods and services in Africa.
Onayemi said, “this is basically what you call your EU of Africa to market goods and services and enter into with the 22nd issue of ratification and work the framework to regulate trading. The protocol in trading goods, the protocol in services and the protocol on the rules and settlement of disputes. On the annexe of the protocol to the trading of goods, annexe of trade remedies, which allows you to protect yourself against unfair trade practices. This is the picture of the agreement as it is set out.
According to him, the major objectives of the (AfCFTA) Agreement is to establish a single Continental market for goods and services, to side the movement of capital, persons, investment, to improve competitiveness. You See on the continent too many times of lack of deficiency and lack of competition on the continent.
“If you don’t do trade and you can’t compete, there is no system to start to industrialize, what the (AfCFTA) does is to set up a road map because it’s now a larger market to liberalize and get higher industrialize chain. It also deepens regional integration because there are too many agreements on the continent. So what the (AfCFTA) does is to provide a system to tighten up that interwovenness of agreements, so it set out a framework for all to come together.
People need to know that the (AfCFTA) is not a big banger, all the tariffs are progressive and every member state is sending 90% of what they are already trading, not 90% of all your tariffs. Members state are negotiating right now and they are submitting all kind of offers and you can also say these are things not liberalizing yet.
“The (AfCFTA) is not a secretariat for making decisions. People look at it as if one day everything vanish, it’s progressive and a lot of work still has to be done. Usually what happen is that the state’s would come together and decide what they want and a draft of the agreement would be sent to the Secretariat. The agreement allows you take a unilateral action when goods are being dumped into your country, the trade remedy provides you such opportunity after an investigation.
“There is a dispute settlement mechanism that exist and why this is so just like the WHO system which the AFCFTA is style after. The idea is that what ever you do, I will do the same to you. For instance if Nigeria closes its border, I can consult Nigeria. If I found you guilty, I will give you a chance to fix it and if you don’t I will retaliate. This is a very effective system that works in global trade.
“The AfCFTA is having a discussion for a $1billion investment drive for SMEs to facilitate activities and business of sbsll business and start-ups. There is sldo the $3 trillion investment framework for Africans to facilitate AFCFTA enabling investments, such as important roads and bridges or important linkage for AfCFTA to work on. The world Bank has said that if AfCFTA is implemented well, it expected to bring 30 million Nigerians out of extreme poverty and 70 million Africans out of unemployment. And it will boost African’s income by $450 billion and if we counter act that against what we have lost against COVID-19, we will have the value of the AfCFTA.”
On the likely challenges to face AfCFTA, Onayemi said, “there is the border issue and most countries are closing their borders. There is also the issue of logistics. How do I get my goods? It is easier to get your goods to the UK than it’s for Africa. And of course the infrastructure problem. The roads that need to be done. Some of the big roads, the corridor roads are still not done.”
He added that;” there is also the issue of free movement of goods and person. The issue of payment and capital. Then the issue of the port, there is a number of ports that are not viable on the continent.”