The Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) has said the signing the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) would serve as a platform to integrate small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) into the regional economy. The pact would also accelerate women’s trade and economic empowerment.
Addressing a press conference in Lagos yesterday, the President of the association, Iyalode Alaba Lawson, noted that the immediate impact of the AfCFTA could be the loss of revenue from import duties and taxes which may impede the federal government’s current agenda to invest heavily in infrastructure and affect other spending activity. Thus, the NACCIMA boss stressed the need for the government to step up efforts with policies that would ensure that Nigerian products and services are market ready for the African continent in the shortest possible time.
He added that in order to take full advantage of the AfCFTA when the country finally agrees to sign the agreement, the federal government must intensify current efforts to eradicate non-tariff and regulatory barriers to international trade. These include border delays, burdensome customs and inspection procedures, as well as ensure that multiple licensing and taxes are eliminated.
He argued that a situation where it was easier to import than to export in the continent would defeat the purpose of signing the AfCFTA.
Lawson said, “This is an issue on the top of our national agenda in the field of trade, and we must therefore say a few words about it. The AfCTA aims to create a common market of 1.2 billion people with an estimated GDP of $2.5 trillion.
“At present, over 40 African countries have signed this Agreement. Nigeria was deeply involved in the negotiations from the beginning and indeed we chaired the process. “We therefore cannot afford to be excluded from a common African market because it is a veritable strategy to raise the competitiveness of African economies in the global economy.
“Clearly, NACCIMA’s position is that our dear country should sign the AfCFTA. We as a country have been closely and long involved with the vision of an African Free Trade Area right from the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) now known as the African Union (AU).”
The association urged that strategy for implementation should be worked out to tackle the inherent problems. “While we continue to address the issues around the AfCFTA, and work on a strategy for implementation to tackle the problems and set up an all-embracing implementation committee in readiness for when it will finally take off.”