The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), has urged the Federal Government to formulate policies that will tackle challenges of regulations and competitiveness of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
ACCI President, Adetokunbo Kayode said this at a news conference on the challenges of AfCFTA in Abuja on Saturday.
President Muhammadu Buhari signing the Assembly of the Union on African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while other officials witnessed the signing during the 12th Extra ordinary session and the First Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union at the Palais des Congres, Niamey, Niger Republic. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida 07
President Muhammadu Buhari had on July 7, at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in Niamey, Niger Republic signed the AfCFTA.
Kayode said that previous governments had made policies on industrial growth and revolution, adding that there was the need for the Federal Government to take industrial development issues seriously.
He said that the Organised Private Sector in Nigeria had been in the forefront of discussions on whether Nigeria should be part of the agreement.
Kayode, also the AU Trade Policy Ambassador, said that lack of competitiveness was one of the challenges facing the agreement, as Nigeria was not competitive because of high cost of production.
He urged the government to put an end to regulations which were stumbling blocks to businesses, while advising government agencies to play their part for things to take shape.
“It is believed that our regulatory framework is opaque and we are not doing well in the Ease of Doing Business in spite of our efforts in the past two years.
“Instead of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) requiring for nine documents to enable export from the country, government can make it one document to boost exportation.
“Instead of pushing people from table to table by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at the Nigerian ports, it can embrace technology by using Single Window Scheme.
“We have issues about power generation among others, 90 per cent of these issues are government related, government needs to resolve these issues,” he said.
He said that Egypt delivered 10,000 megawatts in 27 months, adding that Nigeria could replicate that to generate a lot of businesses, create employment and jobs through its value chain for production to work seamlessly.
“Nigeria cannot be a dumping ground for other countries because those items presumed dumped are imported and somebody paid for them. In Benin Republic, 99 per cent of people importing rice are Nigerians.[ ] “It is when we are not producing enough that people can only import, we are not producing enough because the system and government policies are blocking production.”
The AU Trade Policy Ambassador said that the whole of African business community was excited by the agreement but also scared that Nigeria would take over.
“So they are shocked that Nigeria is afraid to be a dumping ground for imported items. How many Nigerians are in Ghana, Cote d’ Ivoire, South Africa and others doing business, even outside of Africa.
“They respect our strength, we are not perfect but they know that we are strong,’’ he said.
He said that the controversy on whether or not to sign the agreement which raged for some time, arose from what was assumed to be perceived disadvantages the agreement may impose on the country.
“And there were other issues like lack of consultation. It is always important for government to consult and engage actively the private sector, especially in the area of policy that impact on trade, industry, including health and education,’’ he said.
He advised the government to leverage on the challenges and turn them into opportunities to enable Nigeria take its God’s given position as the leader of Africa.
“We are the acclaimed largest economy in Africa but we know the truth that our economy is large but under developed, it is still based on the mono product which is oil.
“We are just an oil producing country, we are not a real oil economy that has all the value chain, the gas, the chemical, petro-chemical value chain even the legal value chain.”
Recall that AfCFTA aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investments.