The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) says Nigeria should take full advantage of African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to boost its exports to other African countries.
Mr Segun Awolowo, the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of NEPC, gave the advice at the just-concluded Ecobank Digital Series Virtual Africa Conference 2020.
He said that Africa, with a population of more than 1.2 billion, a large market and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 3 trillion U.S. dollars, offered a veritable platform for Nigeria to increase its exports via the implementation of AfCFTA.
He noted that most of Nigeria’s exports in the region had been largely informal exports, adding, however, the exports would now be formal, with the advent of platforms like Ecobank, to add real value to the national economy.
He said that in 2018, the value of Nigeria’s exports to Africa totalled around 6.99 billion dollars, while its export to the rest of the world totalled 45.92 billion dollars.
Awolowo said that with the use of export tool of the International Trade Centre, NEPC had identified areas of untapped export potential for Nigeria in Africa as fertiliser, ginger and sesame, among others, as these products were what other African countries were buying.
“Nigeria must, and can, live in a world where it no longer sells oil.
“Nigeria is working on key game changers in infrastructure in order to achieve this, especially in the area of ease of transportation and also in the area of incentives, export expansion grant like pre-shipment incentives and export development fund, which serve to prepare, facilitate and support exports to the global market,” he said.
The Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement in ECOWAS, Tei Konzi, said that 85 per cent of ECOWAS exports were to countries outside Africa, adding that efforts should be made to alter the trend.
Konzi, who was represented by Mr Kolawole Sofola, an Acting Director in ECOWAS, said: “We can bring these trade back to Africa and increase activity on the continent in agriculture and mining, among others.”
“We are yet to conclude work on our tariffs but at the moment, ECOWAS countries trade more with outside countries than it does with African countries and this is why we are bent on making sure the AfCFTA succeeds,” he said.
Konzi described AfCFTA as a comprehensive trade agreement which sought to create a single market for goods and services and facilitate free movement of persons through the progressive liberation of the market for goods and services.
He said that AfCFTA would also contribute to the movement of capital to facilitate investment, while forming the foundation for continental customs union at a later stage.
Ade Adeyemi, the Chief Executive Officer, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), reiterated that African countries must adopt a continent-wide approach to business and focus on wealth creation so as to be relevant in the global value chain.
Adeyemi, however, underscored the need for commitment and readiness for trade facilitation by the individual nations in order to achieve the goals of AfCFTA.
He urged African governments to be committed to the agreement, calling for the preparedness of individual nations, with regard to the implementation strategies, commitment to free movement, as well as signing and ratification of the protocol on free movement of people.
Ayeyemi pledged the commitment of Ecobank to supporting the implementation of AfCFTA and using use bank’s pan-African platform to facilitate trade, payments and business to assist governments and businesses.
“No country is so poor that it has nothing to give and no country is so rich that it has nothing to receive. All of us must come together to become better,” he urged African countries.