Nigeria, others to address free trade challenges in Africa

Nigeria and some African countries have expressed their readiness to address challenges of achieving a free trade zone in Africa.

The Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and some other stakeholders from different countries in Africa spoke at the Africa Trade Forum 2018, which was co-hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Federal Government of Nigeria and the African Union Commission, in Lagos on Friday.

The forum attended by various leaders, experts and trade sector stakeholders from different countries in Africa, aimed to encourage the remaining members of the African Union to sign up for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a pact that was signed in March by 44 out of the 55 African heads of state in Kigali, Rwanda.

While noting that it was over seven months since the AfCFTA was signed, Osibanjo mentioned that it was probably the most significant pan-African agreement in this generation.

Since its establishment, he added, the pace outreach to build capacity and sharpen expertise had accelerated on the continent.

He said, “The negotiators have essentially done their job,” adding, “It is time for policymakers and stakeholders with the support of regional contribution across the continent to do their own job.

The objective now is to improve understanding of the stake in place, the opportunities, and to identify some of the concerns and challenges that stakeholders may have and how to address them.”

According to him, economies that were opened grew faster than those that were closed, and Lagos was one of such examples as it was being grouped as one of the five fastest growing economies in Africa.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, said, “In summary, the purpose of this exercise can be the implementation, stakeholders and engagement, and grouping Africa into the 21st century on the platform of the AU agenda and 2018 agreement established in the African continental free trade movement.”

According to him, urgent and effective actions are required as Africans must play things differently in order to meet the set target in record time.

He said, “Africa cannot afford to stand still or proceed at a slower pace. Now that we are fully alert, what we need is to speed into full gear and accelerate what we are doing to achieve the desired result.”
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