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Buhari’s aide, Okpeke, others examine risks, benefits of AfCFTA



‘Handshake across divides will expand Nigeria’s participation’

Stakeholders have highlighted the importance of public-private partnership (PPP) in boosting Nigeria’s participation in regional and global trade. They also noted that Nigeria’s active involvement in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) would help to reduce the effect of the current stagflation.
They submitted to the ninth edition of the Leadership Excellence for National Development (LEND) webinar and podcast series of the JCI Nigeria Senate Association.
The virtual discourse on the risks and rewards of the AfCFTA, was attended by over 125 private, public and civil society professionals from Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Jordan and North America.

The Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Public Sector Matters, Francis Anatogu, said regional trade is the next frontier for countries seeking to “trade their way to prosperity”.
He said AfCFTA is Africa’s stepping stone for African countries to expand their share in the global market. He, however, said the regional market needs to formaise its trade processes and structure to be globally competitive.
Anatogu, who is also the Secretary of Nigeria’s National Action Committee on AfCFTA, examined the risks of corporate inaction and regulatory inertia in the Nigerian environment.
He said AfCFTA gives Nigeria access to Africa’s $504.17 billion (goods) and $162bn (services) market to leverage to drive growth. Recall that AfCFTA came into effect in January 2021 while Nigeria signed the agreement in July 2019 and ratified it in November 2020.     
“The agreement is a clarion call for businesses to boost backward integration and local value addition in readiness for trade opportunities.

While the Nigerian government continues to diversify the productive base of the economy within and beyond the petroleum industries, the emerging free trade across Africa will enable our companies to enhance productivity through competition, specialisation and, eventually, consolidate Nigeria’s hub position in the services sector,” Anatogu noted.
Also speaking, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of MainOne, Funke Opeke, observed that the rewards of the continental free trade area would outweigh the risks if the private and public sectors come together to harmonise policy, regulations and business practices.
Opeke, whose firm currently has customers in 10 West African countries, listed the key challenges to the AfCFTA implementation in Nigeria to include prevailing predatory trade practices, funding, regulatory and infrastructure constraints, insecurity and productivity issues.

She noted that Nigeria has huge work to do just as the European Union example has shown that regional cooperation and integration is a desirable but delicate journey. 
Other participants pointed that the presence of global players in Nigeria and the growing plethora of brands showcase the country’s soft power capability and capacity to galvanize regional economic growth and development. 
The moderator of the discussion, Afolabi Oladipo, a JCI certified national trainer, noted that proper economic management and mindset transformation were needed if Nigeria was to actualise its trade objectives. 
The Chair of the JCI Nigeria Senate Association and host of the webinar, Nneka Itabor, added: “Indeed, AfCFTA is about continuous engagement and we trust that conversations such as this will lead to new partnerships across cultural, national and political boundaries.

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