Upon implementation, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will stimulate intra-African trade and grow Nigeria’s exports to African countries by 15%, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.


The President stated this on Monday while addressing the 9th Union of African Shippers’ Council (UASC) meeting holding in Lagos, Nigeria.


The meeting tagged, “African Continental Free Trade Agreement: A veritable platform for African Shippers to mainstream into global trade”,


Represented by the Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye, the President stated that while AfCFTA has capacity to attract productive long-term investments, the development of appropriate supporting policies, building requisite infrastructure and education of the workforce must be priority.


He hinted that Nigeria’s exports to the rest of Africa would increase by more than 15% in fishery, textile, wearing apparel, leather, wood and papers, metals, electronics, vehicles and transport equipment and machinery (for industrial sectors) and in meat and poultry, milk, 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 agriculture and food sectors).


He added that following the AfCFTA reform, Nigeria’s exports would increase significantly to other African sub-regions, outside West Africa, with most impressive expansions to countries such as Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.


He stated that due to her sheer economic size, Nigeria is among African nations expected to experience the largest absolute expansion in intra-African exports, and the ECOWAS member expected to give the largest boost to intra — African exports.


The President further called on African countries to make AfCFTA a reality by creating national institutions to implement the agreement.


“It is an obvious fact that making AfCFTA a reality will require creating national institutions for implementing the Agreement, in addition to institutional coordination mechanisms for execution between the public sector, private sector and donors.


“That is why the Nigerian Government have intensified efforts aimed at identifying new opportunities for diversification and value chain development under the AfCFTA, and complementary actions considered necessary to overcome the existing constraints to intra-African trade.”


Assuring delegates of the support of the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control for West and Central African Region, he Secretary General of Capt. Sunday Umoren while delivering his goodwill stated the importance of an African fleet for the transportation of cargo traded within the region.


His words: “AfCFTA came at the right time and we have this platform binding us together but we need to act fast and snatch the moment. Nothing stops this region from having a strong ship owing capacity, thus eliminating the burden and impact of high freight rate from foreign ships.”


Earlier, in his welcome address, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Emmanuel Jime, enjoined African leaders to embrace tariff liberalisation for intra-African trade to thrive.


Jime stressed the need to put adequate measures in place to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers that hamper trading between countries in the continent.


According NSC boss, there is a need to create smooth integration of transport infrastructures and trade policies in the sub-region for trade to thrive.


“There is 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 further said


In his own speech, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, pointed out that automation has remained the tool for port efficiency.


He hinted that NPA is working with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to deploy Port Community System in Nigerian Ports to bring all stakeholders under one platform for ease of doing business.


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