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‘Why AfCFTA has failed to secure requisite traction amid opportunities’

By Gloria Nwafor
23 September 2021   |   3:06 am
A Professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, Akin Oyebode, has described the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a dream deferred, which has not secured requisite traction

Mrs. Funmi Ekundayo (left); Vice President, Mr. Taiwo Owokalade, President and Mrs. Taiwo Olusesi, all of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN) at the institute’e 45th Annual Conference in Lagos.

­A Professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, Akin Oyebode, has described the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a dream deferred, which has not secured requisite traction since its take-off.

The similarity in the goods and products of the different African countries, Oyebode said, did not avail the complementarity which diversity would have facilitated.

Oyebode, who was the keynote speaker, said this at the 45th yearly conference of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN), where he spoke on the theme: ‘The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and National Development: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities.

He lamented that the failure by many of the state parties to transform AfCFTA Act into domestic laws has also not helped matters, stating that out of plain fear or docility, many African countries have been unable to be assertive or stand up to the wiles of imperialism.

With immense benefits of the AfCFTA, according to him, if properly harnessed, it can become the panacea for the multifarious socio-economic difficulties afflicting the various African countries.

He advised that the synergy activated by synchronisation with programmes, policies and plans of other African countries should be tapped by the member-states to jump-start their economies to a higher level.

Noting that the role of the AfCFTA might be marginal, where and when policies are not well-thought-out, he added that the exponential rise in the market should also be a stimulus to the productive base of the various economies and serve as an antidote to an increase in unemployment, underemployment and general impoverishment of the African population.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, who emphasised the importance of public-private partnership in the AfCFTA deal, restated commitment to ensuring that the private sector took its rightful role as key drivers in the agreement.

Noting that AfCFTA provides the right opportunity to unlock the country’s potential for growth, he expressed the ministry’s interest in collaborating with ICSAN to enthrone principles of ethics and corporate governance, which he said was germane to the success of the agreement.

According to him, businesses must be built on trust and principles that ensure sustainability, which is a key driver to economic growth.

Director, Policy, Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Dr. Oyesola Oyekunle, stressed that closing Nigeria’s infrastructural gap would not only boost economic growth but also give the country a competitive advantage under the AfCFTA.

Noting that Nigeria’s growing infrastructure deficit remained a major concern, he called on policymakers to prioritise investments in regional infrastructure to catalyse integration and facilitate intercontinental trade.

He revealed that the Nigerian geographical terrain has been littered with abandoned projects since 2011, where the Federal Government established a Project Assessment Committee, which identified and recorded 11,866 projects that have been abandoned for a myriad of reasons.

To this end, he called for the strengthening of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), with human, material resources and legal framework to enable it to perform maximally in the realisation of its set objectives.