Africa’s first organized trade fair ended recently in Cairo, Egypt with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) calling for implementation of initiatives that would add value to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Titled Intra-Africa Trade Fair (IATF), the exhibition was organized by Afreximbank, in collaboration with the African Union (AU) to accentuate the benefits of the recently introduced AfCFTA. The fair attracted over 70,000 visitors from both within Africa and other parts of the world while about $25 billion worth of business transactions were expected to have been completed by the time it ends today.
Being the first of its type in the continent, Nigeria being the second largest economy in Africa was reported to have had over 140 exhibition stands with many locally produced products and services showcased for export.
Nigeria’s Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo led a strong delegation from the Federal Government which included Okechukwu Enelama, Minister of Trade and Investments and Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu.
The trade fair, according to the organizers, was aimed at promoting intra-African trade while seeking for the emergence of a robust continental manufacturing and supply chain within which companies in the African trade zone would be projected to realize their growth potentials.
For Nigeria which is yet to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA), the question is, “what is the hope of benefiting from a borderless Africa with huge trade potentials which is what IATF and AfCFTA set to promote.
The AfCFTA, as structured, seeks to engender intra-African trade, enhance economic growth and also push for a strong production/industrial base for the production of export goods within the African continent. And for any country to be a beneficiary, it has to plug into the AFCFTA initiative.
And for Nigeria, which is not yet a signatory to AfCFTA, this is the time to reconsider its earlier position. The hysteria in government quarters that signing the AfCFTA would turn the country into a dumping ground for goods manufactured in other African countries is unfounded. The country being one of the three biggest economies in Africa should not in any way exercise fears of being overtaken by the economies of other African countries. Instead it should take advantage of its dominant economic position in Africa and the enabling environment that AfCFTA would offer to boost its manufacturing base and push its bursting service sector to higher grounds.
Nigeria, for instance, should take advantage of AfCFTA to grow its fast growing strong e-commerce industry currently valued at $13 billion, which in ten years is estimated to rise to $50 billion, with the potential to create three million jobs.
Another sector that could benefit from the AfCFTA is the country’s exploding entertainment and creative industry valued at about $10 billion. Creative works from Nigeria, especially the Nollywood entertainment initiative, are making waves around the world and AfCFTA offers the opportunity for the country to reap bountifully from this area. Reports that some leading Nigerian artistes as D’Banj, Femi Kuti, Davido and others were in Cairo to perform at the fair as part of the Nigerian musical outreach is a welcome development. The music from these Nigerian creative minds and a host of others like them would be veritable export materials to African countries as trade component.
Being in AfCFTA is a welcome development and as former President Olusegun Obasanjo said at the fair, “It is our duty to create the environment where the entrepreneurial spirit of Africans can succeed.” The AfCFTA offers that environment that is cable of engendering economic growth in Africa.
Thus, attending the fair by a large Nigerian contingent should not be the usual Nigerian way of doing things where such fairs are taken for a jamboree but rather, it should spur the country to look inwards and seek for opportunity of getting a foothold in the ever expanding African market. This is the time for Nigeria to sign the AfCFTA which represents a great achievement for African integration and a veritable platform to build African wealth and forge a single market that would target the over one billion people in Africa.
Nigeria should as a matter of urgency, quicken steps to utilize the opportunity offered by the just concluded IATF and the AfCFTA, to grow its economy by expanding its manufacturing base and increase its foreign exchange earning capacity. Africa offers so much opportunity for intra-continental trade and if well developed would grow the industrial and trade sectors of the continent. It would also enhance the size and standards of the African market and thus eliminate the dumping of goods by foreign manufacturing concerns.