By Rukayat Moisemhe, Lagos.
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has called on African nations to maximize the opportunities offered by the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to fully integrate the continent into the global market.
The President of MAN, Chief Francis Meshioye, made the call at the “Lighting the African Trade Torch for the Implementation of the AfCFTA” ceremony held on Wednesday in Lagos.
The AfCFTA’s “Torch Lighting’’ ceremony is designed to demonstrate the commitment of participating countries to the implementation of the AfCFTA.
Meshioye, who doubles as President, Pan-African Manufacturers Association (PAMA), said that AfCFTA had created a market of over 1.3 billion people, and was the largest single market in the world with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over 2.6 trillion U.S. dollars.
He said that the AFCFTA would boost Africa’s export by more than 600 billion dollars with wage gain of more than 10 per cent, presenting a unique opportunity for increased production capacities and trade volume.
According to him, AfCFTA is a catalyst for significant reduction in poverty, offering opportunities for ramping up production, up-scaling trade volume and creating enduring wealth for the continent.
“On behalf of PAMA, I congratulate the African Union, the AfCFTA Secretariat and the Africa Business Council for the progress we have made since the commencement of the AfCFTA.
“We see the single liberalised market for free trade in goods and services, which AfCFTA offers, as a lifetime opportunity for African countries to trade more with each other, refocus national economies and fast-track the process of fully integrating the continent into the global market.
“All these opportunities are for the taking, if competitiveness of private businesses is to be enhanced; and I must say, we cannot afford to allow this monumental opportunity to liberate Africa economically to slip from our hands.
“In reality, the benefits and opportunities that AfCFTA offers are not without challenges and hurdles that will necessitate tough decisions and measures.
“However, I am confident that with concerted efforts of all stakeholders and overwhelming support of all private sector operators in Africa, these hurdles are surmountable,” he said.
The MAN president noted that his interactions with manufacturers revealed the hope that AfCFTA would transform Africa into a prosperous and competitive trade environment.
He stressed the need to immediately move beyond the completion of negotiations on schedule of tariff offers, finalisation of work on the rules of origin and fully operationalise the Pan-African Payment Platform.
Meshioye said that all outstanding issues that were germane to the effective implementation of AfCFTA must be speedily resolved.
He charged the participating countries to continue to support the African Union and the AfCFTA Secretariat to evolve strategies that would ensure that trading in the AfCFTA corridor stimulated inclusive development in Africa.
He explained that this was achievable through strategic framework to facilitate inflow of investment and the inclusion of women, youth, innovation and technology development in the AfCFTA implementation roadmap.
He added that countries must address factors such as macroeconomic environment, poor competitiveness and dearth of trade facilitation infrastructure prevailing in many African countries.
Meshioye said: “As we light the Africa Trade Torch on implementation of AfCFTA today, we must all resolve to keep this monumental light in our minds.
“We should ensure up-scaling of trade in manufactured goods through improved industrial capacity and deliberately develop industrial inputs to reduce the intensity of reliance on the global supply chain.
“We must intentionally bring down all the historical physical borders in Africa, facilitating peaceful co-existence and security of lives and property.
“We must effectively support all Organised Private Sector organisations in Africa and strengthen the Private Sector Directorate in the structure of the AfCFTA Secretariat, as PAMA continues to monitor unfolding events around AfCFTA with great optimism.”