By Ray Ugochukwu
Maritime stakeholders last Thursday in Apapa, Lagos, lamented that despite the tremendous opportunity offered by the African Continent Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) the country is ill-prepared to embrace it.
The stakeholders made their views known at a Roundtable, a news discussion event, organised by the Maritime Journalists’ Association of Nigeria (MAJAN).
The topic for discussion was
“African Continental Free Trade Agreement: How Ready Are Maritime Stakeholders to Key Into the Concept?”
While applauding MAJAN, for taking the initiative to hold a roundtable discussion on AfCFTA, they called on regulatory agencies, stakeholders and corporate organisations in the maritime Industry’ to give the association adequate support to continue in its enlightenment programme.
However, the Managing Director/CEO of Mac-Manuel Global Logistics, Mr Emeka Enwelu, who attended as a Guest Speaker, stressed the importance of the awareness creation initiative of MAJAN.
“I’m really impressed by the level of reportage and enlightenment MAJAN is giving the Industry. It is quite beneficial for the growth of the sector.
“I commend your President for his visionary leadership. Stakeholders are very happy with what MAJAN is doing in the maritime industry. We received your Communique on the programme you did recently on Apapa traffic gridlock and its toll on businesses. Only last week, we saw another programme you did on Investigative Journalism, and today, you are discussing AfCFTA; your effort is highly appreciated”, he stated.
On the readiness of maritime stakeholders to key into AfCFTA concept, Mac-Manuel Global Logistics boss explained, “I believe government is not ready because the level of enlightenment is very low.
“Government has not done much in educating those concerned about this concept. Look at an important sector like maritime, nobody has reached out to licensed customs agents and other Industry players.
“Government signed AfCFTA when our land borders were still closed. It shows that we are not prepared. We
just entered into an important trade agreement without adequate preparation.
“The only things we have are the population and a large market.”
Enwelu, who is also the National Vice President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) wondered why such a huge continental business deal should be shrouded in secrecy, noting that it “ought to have been on the lips of everybody just like Covid-19 is”.
On his part, the Guest Lecturer, who is the Registrar, NAGAFF Academy, Fwdr Francis Omotosho, informed the Agreement was a regional trade initiative that varied depending on the level of commitment and arrangements among the subscribers.
In his words, “Regional trade agreements vary depending on the level of commitment and arrangement among member countries. It comes with internal rules that member countries must follow.
“These include removal of trade barriers; free movement of goods and services across the region; Customs Union of
Member countries which must reduce trade barriers to enhance seamless cargo clearance”. He went on to add “free import and export of resources must be allowed; member countries have to adopt a set of economic policies and use of one currency; regional integration must be encouraged. “Investors, who want to put money in developing countries, must be protected against political risk”.
He added :
“AfCFTA has economic benefits, which include increase in foreign direct investments (FDI) and reduction in trade tariff. The agreement helps to remove trade barriers. It boosts economic growth, creates jobs and paves the way for market
“AfCFTA is a flagship project of African Union Agenda 2063, a blueprint for attaining inclusive and sustainable growth.
On 20th December, 2019, in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the National Action Committee for Implementation of AfCFTA. The Federal Executive Council ratified Nigeria’s membership of AfCFTA on November 11, 2020 and it started in January 2021 as scheduled.
According to Omotosho, “The objectives are to create a single continental market for Made in African goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, paving the way for establishment of Continental Customs Union.
“When fully implemented, AfCFTA will eliminate tariffs on intra- businesses to trade within the continent and cater for growing African market.
AfCFTA is to create a liberalised market for goods and services through successive rounds of negotiation.
AfCFTA is to lay the foundation for establishment of a continental customs union.
“AfCFTA is to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
AfCFTA is to consolidate Africa into one trade area for entrepreneurs, businesses and consumers across the continent”.
In his remarks, the MAJAN President, Comrade Ray Ugochukwu, said the worth of AfCFTA is over $3. 4trillion annually and has the tendency to increase over the years.
He assured that MAJAN would continue to discuss with relevant stakeholders and enlighten the public through responsible reportage.
His words: “As journalists, our duty is to enlighten the masses through our reports. This is what MAJAN is doing as a group. Our maiden national Maritime Summit on ‘Apapa traffic gridlock’ is slated for next month, March 2021. We’re optimistic that our modest contribution towards addressing the nightmare Apapa gridlock has become, will yield good results”.
“The summit will provide a good platform for stakeholders, regulatory agencies and government departments involved, to proffer lasting solutions to the perennial gridlock at Apapa ports access roads.”
The MAJAN President, thanked all the resource persons, who graced the occasion, including Dr Emeka Enebili, the Chief Host, among others. He said that MAJAN Roundtable was going to be a regular exercise going forward.
AfCFTA has 55 member countries as its trade area with a cumulative population of 1.3 billion people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) value of $3.4 trillion annually.