By Chinenye Offor
Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta has told the Federal Government to leverage on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement to create jobs, increase productivity and boost the nation’s economy.
Okowa made the call when the National Action Committee on AFCFTA visited him on Tuesday in Asaba, Delta.
According to him, Nigeria can explore its huge population to stimulate increased productivity to help in creating more jobs and engender a safe society.
“Being part of AFCFTA is in the best interest of the country and it is imperative that we use things produced by us for the benefit of the society,’’ Okowa said.
While commending the committee’s initiative in visiting states to sensitise the public to understand the benefits of the agreement, Okowa harped on the need to domesticate the agreement in states.
“It is a good start we are taking, having a larger market and production of quality goods that penetrate the market is key.
“Making greater use of what we produce will be beneficial to us so that we don’t use the process of trade and exporting goods in the wrong form.
He said: “there is a lot of setbacks in the oil industry over the years because we were satisfied with the way crude is, instead of developing it to where it will be useful to us.
“It is also important to know the quality of goods that go into the African market.
The governor said that the cost of production of power was an issue that must be addressed, noting that improving the availability of power would help those in business to sustain it because lots of businesses would not be sustained, due to this challenge.
Earlier, the Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Mr Adeniyi Adebayo, said that the AfCFTA agreement sought to create a single market for made in Africa goods and services.
Represented by Mr Aliu Abubakar, Director of Trade in the ministry, Adebayo described the agreement as part of efforts to deepen economic integration among African countries.
He said that the opportunity presented by the agreement was access to a single market in Africa with a population of 1.2 billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of 3.4 trillion dollars.
The minister said that AfCFTA would eliminate tariffs on 90 per cent of tradable goods over five years for developing countries and 10 years for least developed countries and customs union like ECOWAS.
Adebayo added that this would expand market access for Nigeria’s exporters of goods and services which would in turn catalyse production growth and boost job creation in the economy.
He noted that AfCFTA was also interesting to Nigeria because Africa demanded finished goods and Nigeria aspired to industrialise and progress beyond export of commodities.
“AfCFTA can act as a catalyst for Nigeria’s export diversification by providing preferential access to Nigerian products and services to the huge African market which currently sources over 85 per cent of imports from outside the continent.
“It also provides immense opportunities for Nigerian companies to expand to Africa, especially in oil and gas, financial services, fintech, tourism services, e-commerce and manufacturing.
“Since the bulk of Nigeria’s wealth are domiciled in the states, if Nigeria is to stand any chance of making something out of AfCFTA, it must as a matter of necessity domesticate it at the state and grassroots levels.
“It is for this reason that the National Action Committee on AfCFTA has commenced a nationwide sensitisation across states to ensure that each state finds its voice in the overall vision and mission of AfCFTA,’’ Adebayo said.
Also Mr Francis Anatogu, Secretary to the committee, said that the mandate of the committee was to facilitate the ratification of the phase one agreement and implement safeguards in the AfCFTA phase one agreements.
He said also that it was to champion programmes to resolve the critical continental-level challenges, conclude ongoing trade reform programmes at ECOWAS such as the adoption of a common trade policy.
According to him, the committee’s duty is also to facilitate productivity and production capacity enhancement programmes on priority products and services and facilitate growth of export trade capabilities of Nigerian.
“We improve coordination between trade, fiscal and monetary policies, facilitate enforcement of domestic and international trade rules, facilitate amendments of Acts and enacting new bills as may be required.
“With the above in mind, we started out by establishing the requirements to safeguard Nigeria’s economy from the threats identified.
“With confidence that the threats can be mitigated we recommended the ratification of the agreement to the Federal Executive Council. (NAN)