Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has clamored for stakeholders to adhere to the African Continental Free Trade Area agreements while making trading negotiations with non-Africans, to boost the continent’s economic viability.
Osibanjo, who spoke during the 61st annual conference of the Nigerian Economic Society (NES), Friday, said that Covid-19 pandemic had reflected the need for a veritable AFCFTA platform in Nigeria.
He said, “Indeed, one thing that has become clear from our experiences of the last few months is the need for a vibrant and successful AfCFTA. The pandemic has exposed our dependence on commodity exports to other parts of the world and on the import of manufactured goods from them.
“As at 2017, intra-Africa trade in goods was $135 billion which was just about 15% of Africa’s total trade. This is in sharp contrast to trade in other regions which is as high as 70% in the European Union and 60% in Asia.
“The imposition of export bans including on food items by some countries and the disruption of global supply chains at the height of the pandemic showed just how exposed and vulnerable African countries are because of limited productive capacity and a lack of regional value chains.
Osibanjo also emphased that the continent should explore the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement in trade discussions rather than deals endorsed by regional economic divisions.
He said, “One important objective of the AfCFTA is to overcome the economic fragmentation of the continent by bringing the regional economic blocs together in a common arrangement.
“This being the case, African countries should look to negotiating trade treaties with other parts of the world on the basis of AfCFTA rather than through arbitrarily designed regional blocs.
“African countries should not allow themselves to be lured into arrangements which do not serve their long-term development objectives.
“We must, of course, continue to bear in mind, especially here in Nigeria that the AfCFTA is not a magic wand that automatically brings about growth and prosperity.
“The reality is that if care is not taken, trade liberalization can expose the Nigerian economy to unfair competition and sharp trade practices, with adverse consequences for our producers who might have to close down their businesses, and for our workers who would then lose their jobs.”
Osinbajo noted that implenting the AFCTA agreements was largely dependent on financing, citing implementation costs, such as undertaking reforms, establishing new trade-related bodies, improving and upgrading existing facilities.
He said, “Finding the resources to undertake these activities at a time like this when we lack fiscal space will, of course, prove to be very difficult for Nigeria and other African countries.
“Our economists should accordingly help to come up with innovative financing solutions for our economies.
“Apart from reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus and mitigating its effect on the domestic economy, Nigeria must have an interest in promoting an AfCFTA that catalyses regional value-chains, enables free movement of people, attracts investments and improves the continental payments system.
“As we seek to use the opportunities, we should remain alert to the need to create conditions that will enable our businesses to be able to compete and thrive within the AfCFTA.
” We can no longer plan without fully considering the AfCFTA; all planning and budgeting documents must take it into account.
”This explains why the current successor plan to the ERGP has the AFCFTA as an important reference,” he said.
On the Federal Government’s N2.3 trillion stimulus package, Osinbajo said the plan was designed to mitigate the shock, tackle the vulnerabilities, create and protect jobs, as well as rescue businesses and reposition the economy.Follow us on social media