The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has restated the need for the Federal Government to be cautious before ratifying the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
This latest warning by MAN is coming on the heels of a recently constituted committee for Impact and Readiness Assessment of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area by President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks ago to address risks associated with signing the AFCFTA agreement.
President of MAN, Mansur Ahmed, urged the Federal Government not to only consult but study and understand the implications of the free trade agreement before ratification.
Speaking in Lagos on Monday when he received the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) Hassan Bello, who paid him a courtesy visit, Ahmed said with Nigeria’s experience in exporting goods to other West Africa countries, under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), the continental free trade agreement may not be any better.
“The position of MAN on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement has been very clear from the beginning. Nigeria is the largest economy in West Africa and the largest population. The impact of any major agreement to do with trade clearly will have greater impact on Nigeria than any other country.
“So we owe it to ourselves and to our economy that we should be very conscious of the potentials of not only the opportunities but also the risks to our economy. We need to study this very carefully to anticipate where there is likely to be risk to the economy or to the welfare of the people and to make sure that we agree on mitigating actions that will minimize these risks.
“The ECOWAS trade liberalization scheme has not been effective as it should be and up till today, our exporters are having tremendous problem exporting even from Nigeria to Ghana. If therefore, this is our experience within the West African sub region, we cannot take it for granted that the AFCFTA will be any better. So we want to make sure that we consult, study and understand how it is going to affect us and we take measures up front to make sure that we mitigate the risks and maximise the opportunities for our economy,” he said
Ahmed said the economy is presently going through challenging times; hence there could be no better time than now to fully diversify the economy.
Earlier, Bello said the visit was to solicit the buy-in of MAN to jointly agree on framework for collaboration in addressing some of the challenges in the port sector.
He said the council has been supporting programmes geared towards improving port efficiency and reducing cost as well as simplifying procedures and processes for the clearance of goods at the ports.
Bello, who reiterated the need for diversification of the economy, also noted that exports procedures need to be streamlined.
“For long, we have been talking about the fact that the economy needs to come out from being import dependent to an economy that can manufacture, export and process agricultural produce and make sure we earn the foreign exchange. So in line with the Federal Government effort, the shippers council has keyed into this project by ensuring that the export procedures are streamlined and reduced to the barest minimum,” he said.
Meanwhile, MAN and the Shippers Council have agreed to set up a joint committee with focus on reducing cost to make the nation’s port more competitive, promote ease of doing business, review some trade policies at the port as well as improve port infrastructure.