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AfCFTA implementation: trade expert says participation of private sector vital

Mr. Ken Ukaoha

Mr Ken Ukaoha, a trade expert on Negotiations and Advocacy, has stressed the need for the private sector to be carried along in implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

Ukaoha, also president of the National Association of Nigerian Traders, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday, that from all indications the private sector was yet to be involved in the implementation of AfCFTA.
“The Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) negotiation process gave rise to an Implementation Framework Agreement recently signed in Kigali, Rwanda by as many as 44 member countries of the African Union (AU).
“But the provisions of Article 9 (Part III) of the framework establishing the AfCFTA, neglected the composition and role for the private sector.
“This is a bold testimony to the fact that indeed the negotiation has been conducted and concluded without the business community,” he said.
Ukaoha explained that all over the world, trade agreements were always secured for the private sector actors who were relied upon for its implementation.
He said the key practical knowledge and transaction of trade and commerce were the core business of the private sector actors.
“These actors are the direct investors of their hard earned funds, they are the producers/manufacturers, marketers/distributors and sometimes largely form the consumer populace of goods and services.
“To this end, actors in the private sector are pictured and brought into the negotiation and implementation table in acknowledgement of their position as the immediate brunt bearers of trade and economic agreements,” Ukaoha said.
He said there was no doubt that the private sector in Africa remained a major engine for sustainable economic growth and development, job creation and poverty alleviation.
According to Ukaoha, the sector accounts for about 80 per cent of the total production, two thirds of investments, and three quarters of credit, and employs 90 per cent of the working population.
He said 90 per cent of the firms within the African private sector were Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which promoted productivity through the support of various value chains.
“It is this sector that promotes cross-border trade which the AfCFTA is all about and seeks to address including the challenges of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, complex customs and trade procedures.
“Others include lack of access to finance, high transportation costs and lack of access to Information.
“In the light of the above, for AfCFTA to succeed, the private sector must therefore be given a prominent role in its implementation,” Ukaoha said.