The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Retd), has called on African countries to expand their participation in international trade in order to grow African export trade beyond the current 3 per cent.

The president said this on Monday in Lagos at the 9th United African Shippers’ Council meeting theme ‘African Continental Free Trade Agreement: A veritable platform for African shippers to mainstream into global trade’ hosted by the Nigerian Shippers Council.

Buhari also said the expansion of African export trade will help to create wealth, generate employment, reduce poverty on a larger scale and transform the African economies.

Buhari, who was represented at the event by the Minister of State for Transportation, Ademola Adegoroye, said the implementation of the AfCFTA was crucial to expanding African participation in international trade.

He, however, said that African governments must develop appropriate supporting policies, build the requisite infrastructure and ensure an educated workforce for AfCFTA to have a positive influence on long-term investment in productive capacities.

The president further said that the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has forecast that AFCFTA could boost intra-African trade by 52 per cent with the industrial sector gaining the most.

“GDP and exports would increase by $44bn and $56bn respectively and AfCFTA could potentially increase jobs and move informal traders into the formal sector. Digitisation is transforming the way we do business in Africa. In 2011, Digitisation impacted the GDP of Africa by $8.3bn and created over 600,000 jobs on the continent,” he said

Buhari asserted that AFCFTA would be a game changer in Nigeria because it will stimulate intra-African trade and expands the country’s exports to its African partners.

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“Nigeria’s exports to the rest of Africa would increase by more than 15 per cent in fishery, textile, wearing apparel, leather, wood and papers, metals, electronics, vehicles and transport equipment and machinery for industrial sectors. And meat and poultry, milk and dairy products, rice, other cereals, plant-based fibres and other crops, fruit, vegetables, nuts, vegetable oils, other food products, beverages and tobacco as well as livestock for the agricultural sector,” he explained.

He said that African countries need to create national institutions for implementing the agreement in addition to institutional coordination mechanisms for execution between the public sector, private sector and donors.

In his welcome address, the Executive Secretary of NSC, Emmanuel Jime, said African leaders must embrace tariff liberalisation for intra-African trade to thrive.

According to him, there was a need to put adequate measures in place to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers that hamper trading between countries in the continent.

He said that there was a need to create smooth integration of transport infrastructures and trade policies in the sub-region for trade to thrive.

“There is a need to sensitise our various governments to fast-track the dismantling of various tariff and non-tariff barriers that are hindering international trade. We should always look at the holistic impact which tariff liberalisation would have on our economy rather than just considering the immediate shortfall,” he added.

On his part, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello-Koko, pointed out that automation has remained the tool for port efficiency.

He noted that NPA was working with the International Maritime Organisation to deploy port community system in Nigerian ports to bring all stakeholders under one platform for ease of doing business.

By Vision

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