Mr. Francis Anatogu, Secretary, National Action Committee (NAC) on implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, says the free trade area will help Nigeria to diversify her economy.
The NAC scribe stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.
Anatogu, also the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector, said the Federal Government wanted entrepreneurs, the organised private sector, and state governments to embrace economic opportunities that the free trade area offered.
He said the AfCFTA was a veritable window for the country to diversify her economy from oil, and therefore called for the buy-in and support of stakeholders.
“It is no longer news that we have been clamouring for the diversification of our economy over the years, and we have so much depended on oil for our survival.
“As a country, in 2016, we had recession, and that was due to the crash in oil price which constitutes over 80 percent of our export revenue, and then this year COVID-19 came.
“As a committee, we are now working toward how we, as a nation, can properly utilise business doors being offered by AfCFTA.
“It provides us that opportunity that we have always yearned for to diversify our export base because the opportunity is there in Africa, and the Africa market is huge.
“Africa imports most of its manufactured products from the rest of the world, so AfCFTA provides opportunity to industrialise, it provides opportunity for us to diversify our economy,” he said.
Anatogu explained that part of the general objectives of the agreement was to encourage industrial development through diversification, regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security.
He noted that the AfCFTA agreement also encouraged member states to specialise in the production of certain goods, in which they had comparative advantage.
He, therefore, urged Nigerian local industries and entrepreneurs in all sectors to expand their capacity, the quality and quantity of local production and create more jobs.
“We remain largely on import, not in Nigeria only, but every other Africa country, we import about 85 percent of our products.
“Over the past four years, the value of naira against dollar has depreciated and that makes things harder for the Nigeria business that needs to import.
“To hedge over that situation is by engaging in export trade, so you can earn in the currency that you use to import what you need.
“What this also means is that if Nigeria businesses are able to export, they will make more money, employ more people and pay more taxes.
“With the liberalisation, African countries have the advantage to grow; our manufacturers and service providers will prefer to even sell to other African markets,” he said.
Anatogu said that as part of the implementation process, the NAC was holding series of strategy workshops for stakeholders in Agriculture, Transport, Oil and Gas and key sectors of the economy.
According to him, the workshop series is to engage stakeholders in developing a national strategy for all sectors to contribute optimally under the continental free trade agreement when it becomes operational.
“In the past couple of months, we have done a lot of sensitisation, such as the strategy workshops, and in the remaining parts of the year we shall have a lot of stakeholders engagements.
“We will be launching engagements at the Geo-political zones, until we cover all the states.
“The minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, who is the chairman of the committee, has also commenced the engagement of captains of industries from various sectors,” he said.
NAN reports that following the signing of the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the constitution of a National Action Committee (NAC).
The mandate of the NAC is to coordinate relevant MDAs and stakeholder groups to implement the trade readiness interventions detailed in the AfCFTA Impact and Readiness Assessment Report including projects, policies and programmes.
The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a continental market for goods and services with free movement of people and capital and pave the way for creating a Customs Union.
It is expected to grow intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation across the continent. (NAN)