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AfCFTA will solve Nigeria’s unemployment, market access challenge -Trade negotiator

The Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN) on Thursday said the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) would assist to address the issue of unemployment, market access and economic growth for Nigeria and Africa.
Amb. Chiedu Osakwe, Director-General of NOTN, said this during a Stakeholders’ Forum on the AfCFTA  in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the programme was organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
NAN reports that the AfCFTA is an initiative of the African Union (AU) to create a single continental market for goods and services, as well as a customs union with free movement of capital and business travellers.
Osakwe noted that about one million Nigerians and an estimated 18 to 20 million Africans enter the job market yearly, adding that AfCFTA would not only address unemployment issues but deepen intra-Africa trade and regional integration for economic development.
The ambassador noted that AfCFTA was much more than a trade agreement but about strategically reorganising the geo-economic landscape of Africa, Nigeria’s leadership position, competitiveness and modernisation.
He noted that certain provisions were placed in the Articles of Agreement to safeguard local economies, especially manufacturers and SMEs.
According to him, Exclusive and Sensitive list, Modification of Schedule, Trade Remedies which addresses issues of anti-dumping, Special Economic Zones and Infant industry protection, serves as some of the provisions.
He said that the provisions could be reviewed periodically to modify the agreement of each member countries, adding that consultation with various trade organisations, manufacturers and unions were ongoing nationwide to sensitise them on AfCFTA’s economic benefits.
Osakwe said that AfCFTA would birth the largest free trade area in the world, in terms of number of countries, population of 1.2 billion people and $4 trillion, if all 55 countries in Africa signed the agreement
Mr Babatunde Ruwase, President of LCCI, said that Nigeria’s argument for not signing AfCFTA was the fear of numerous bilateral trade agreements of some AU countries with the rest of the world and Nigeria’s underdeveloped industrial and infrastructural sector.
“It has been argued that this will make Nigeria a dumping ground due to our uncompetitive manufacturing profile,  market size and population.
“These are legitimate concerns; it is therefore imperative to deepen consultation across all sectors, in order to address these genuine concerns from stakeholders,” he said.
Dr Ayo Teriba, LCCI’s Chairman, Economic and Statistics Committee, said that the trade negotiator needs to further sensitise the public on the benefits of the agreement to Nigeria’s economy, the traders, SMEs, manufacturers and consumers.
He added that the negotiator should be explicit about what could go wrong in signing the agreement and how to mitigate it toward allaying people’s fears and protecting the economy.
Mr Dosumu Oluwole, an official of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), said that the country needs to address issues of infrastructure challenges, economic stability and competitiveness, before it could benefit from signing the agreement.
NAN reports that the AfCFTA has elicited diverse reactions from the organised  private sector, this led the country to seek for more time and consultation with relevant stakeholders before signing the agreement.
 On March 21, 44 African countries signed the agreement during the 18th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Governments in Kigali, Rwanda.