By Racheal Ishaya
Abuja – The Executive Secretary, Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie has urged Nigeria to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA) to accelerate its industrialisation process.
Nnadozie said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.
NAN reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had on Saturday said Nigeria would only be signatory to the trade agreement if the nation’s national interest as well as regional and international obligations were balanced.
Nnadozie recalled that Nigeria had championed the AfCTA for many years, so it came as a surprise and embarrassment when it refused to sign the agreement in April.
He, however, commended the government for undertaking a nationwide consultation with necessary stakeholders on the impact of the trade agreement before signing.
“I believe that a country should not be signing international agreements and making decisions that have far reaching consequences for stakeholders without adequate consultation.
“Having said that this consultation should have been done a long time ago when these negotiations were taking place.
“There was no need to wait till now to sensitise the country and explain to businesses, to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other important stakeholders about the need for Nigeria to sign up,’’ he said.
Nnadozie predicted that Nigeria would eventually sign the trade agreement because of the benefits and opportunities it presents for local manufacturers.
“Make no mistake, Nigeria will eventually sign.
“The point is after they sign and ratify, are they ready to take advantage of this opportunity? And my worry is that Nigeria may not be ready to take this advantage.
“This is because a continental free trade mechanism has to be established to bring together the private sector, the public sector and other stakeholders.
“Also, the private sector has to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity. Right now, only commercial banks and people like Dangote you see operating in other countries on the continent.
“So others have to gear up their game, and begin to understand that this is serious business,’’ he said.
According to Nnadozie, the ACBF, which is the Capacity Development arm of the African Union, is working with the AFREXIM Bank to build the capacity of government institutions responsible for trade on the continent.
He said this would ensure that trade and ministries of industry were properly equipped to play their role effectively in ensuring that their countries benefit from the trade agreement.
The AfCFTA is expected to cover 1.2 billon Africans with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2.5 trillion dollars.
The agreement is expected to increase intra-African trade from the current 16 per cent to 53 per cent with a corresponding GDP growth, as well as increase employment and job creation on the continent.
About 49 African countries have so far signed the agreement, excluding Nigeria.