New Telegraph

Post-COVID-19: ‘AfCFTA, key driver for economic revival

The Secretary General, Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Mr. Wamkele Mene, has described the initiative as a driver for Africa’s recovery from the impacts of coronavirus crisis. He said it would drive recovery from impacts of the scourge on the continent’s industralisation growth and development agenda. Mene made the assertion during a courtesy visit to the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in Lagos recently.

He said the continent’s ability to trade in merchandise and services inclusive of the airlines industry, tourism and other components was critical to its recovery. Mene said that Africa, before the onset of the pandemic, was a significant market with a growing rate of 3.4 per cent annually, and the producer of six out of 10 fastest growing economies of the world.

“With COVID-19, we went from that to a contraction of a magnitude that we have not had in about 30 years. “But with the objectives of AfCFTA, by 2035, by dabbling in Africa trade, Africa is on the path to industrial development and we are building a capacity to diversify our exports within and outside the continent,” he said. According to him, the projection of International Monetary Fund is that by 2022, there will be some positive growth trajectory of 2.1 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa if we roll out vaccines in time and implement AfCFTA. He said that AfCFTA, therefore, was the driver for Africa’s recovery with all the components critical to this happening.

The AfCFTA’s secretary general also addressed the obvious challenges with rules of origin under the agreement. Mene said that the agreement had rules that catered to discipline, dumping of products, subsidised products and preferential safeguards amongst others. He called for concerted efforts by the private sector, AfCFTA Sec-retariat and regulatory agencies to build greater capacity for the custom authorities of participating countries for the success of the agreement. This, he said, would ensure the enforcement of discipline and build the capacity of the customs services to implement the trade rules of the AfCFTA effectively. Mene lauded the efforts of the Nigerian government at establishing its trade remedy authorities to address issues of origin and punitive measures where necessary.

“At the moment, only two countries – Egypt and South Africa – have their trade remedy authorities ready, and this has the ability to prevent dumping and address many other challenges associated with inter-African trade. “Nigeria is at the advance stage of establishing a trade recovery remedy authority and this is a very positive step,” he said.

In her remarks, Mrs Toki Mabogunje, President, LCCI, said AfCFTA was largely a story of immense excitement and expectation among the Nigerian business commu-nity because of the inherent opportunities. Mabogunje said that Af- CFTA would make the continent more integrated, united and prosperous, especially in the light of the numerous benefits of a larger market. She, however, expressed anxiety over the competitiveness challenges and possible import surge that would come with the continental integration deal.

“The Chamber believes it’s an opportunity for countries to scale up their competitiveness by improving their investment climate. “Ultimately, it would be to the benefit of the economies of the continent and the welfare of our citizens,” she said. Meanwhile, LCCI has confirmed that Mene would be a special guest at its forum themed: ”AfCFTA: Roadmap to a successful implementation” scheduled for March 16.” Also at the meet was Mr. Victor Liman, Acting Chief Trade Negotiator/Director General, Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations.

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