African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) has reiterated its commitment to eliminate trade barriers within Africa. This was at the recently concluded 13th meeting of AfCFTA Council of Ministers responsible for Trade in Durban, South Africa, which provided participants with a crucial opportunity to negotiate and consider further measures to strengthen the implementation of AfCFTA.
Participants included the Secretary-General, AfCFTA Secretariat, Wamkele Mene, as well as over 25 African Trade Ministers, the diplomatic corps, heads of businesses and media from across the continent.
With a population of over 200 million people, and a GDP of approximately $472 billion (World Bank, 2022) – accounting for almost 20% of the continent’s GDP, Nigeria presents the largest economy in Africa and is poised to have a major impact when trading under the agreement commences.
Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, negotiated Nigeria’s unique position on several crucial matters bordering on digital trade, safeguarding against illegal transshipment under the AfCFTA, and tariff lines in specific sectors of the economy.
The Honourable Minister, in strategically protecting Nigeria’s interest, highlighted the need for governments of member states and the secretariat to ensure that the collective interests of the continent is taken into account in adopting a targeted, pragmatic approach towards achieving the objectives of the AfCFTA Agreement.
The negotiations by Uzoka-Anite, were aimed at ensuring that, under the AfCFTA, Nigerian businesses can take advantage of continent-wide trading to expand their markets within a legally binding framework and remain safeguarded under the liberalised trade preferences.
The upcoming 37th African Union Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government will at its annual convention in February 2024 take stock of the progress made thus far in the implementation of the AfCFTA.
The AfCFTA is a monumental trade agreement, which aims to progressively bring together all 55 member states of the African Union, covering a market of more than 1.3 billion people, with a comprehensive scope that includes critical areas of Africa’s economy, such as digital trade, investment, trade in goods and services, amongst others. By eliminating barriers to trade in Africa, the objective of the AfCFTA is to significantly boost intra-Africa trade, particularly trade in value-added production and trade across all services sectors of Africa’s economy.
The successful implementation of the AfCFTA is expected to lead to diversification of exports, increased productive capacity, acceleration of growth, increased investment, increased employment opportunities and incomes, and most importantly broaden economic inclusion both in Nigeria and the rest of the continent. It provides Nigerian exporters with new market access opportunities to key markets in the African continent.