The African Continental Free Trade Agreement has huge potential to move Africa to dizzy heights of development on the platform of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, says Nigeria’s Industry, Trade and Investment Minister, Okechukwu E. Enelamah.
Speaking at the 2018 Africa Trade Forum in Lagos, Enelamah said both the AfCFTA and Agenda 2063 provide the legal and policy framework for addressing the challenges before the African Union and seizing its opportunities.
“But, speed is now of the essence. This time it must be different,” he told delegates from across the continent and beyond who are attending the two-day forum under the theme: “AfCFTA Ratification and Implementation: A game changer for African Economies.”
He added: “Our countries, individually, and our African Union, collectively, are confronted with a complex of problems that are compounding. These include demographic pressures; a population growth rate that has out-stripped GDP growth rates; unemployment; food insecurity; and, the justified impatience of a youthful African population, demanding for a better life.”
The Minister said there was progress in Africa “but we need to move much faster, more purposefully, with improved coordination and greater discipline to harvest the abundance of opportunities”.
He said the pace of change and transformation in the global economy, beyond Africa, had accelerated and Africa could not afford to standstill or proceed at a slow pace.
“As with the expression, whenever you wake is your morning. Now that Africa has woken up we must shift into speed gear and accelerate. We must be more business-like,” said Enelamah.
He continued: “Agenda 2063, that our leaders agreed in the AU in 2015, and the March 2018 Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area, both provide the legal and policy framework, for addressing the challenges before the African Union and seizing its opportunities. But, speed is now of the essence. This time, it must be different.”
The Minister said Nigeria, which is still to sign the AfCFTA, is following developments on AfCFTA keenly.
He said: “We have our eyes not just on the ball, but on the entire game. We are very much in technical play,” he said as he appraised delegates on the nation’s internal consultations on the AfCFTA.
“The idea of an African Common Market, which we now refer as the African Continental Free Trade Area, has been around from the 1960s. Nigeria championed the concept and the architecture of the African Common Market from the 1960s.
“What is different this time is that we have to ensure that we walk the talk. Collectively, and individually, we must have a plan to implement the AfCFTA – any agreement that we sign. Africa has to take itself seriously, so as to be taken seriously by others. This time must be different!”
The 2018 Africa Trade Forum had 12 sessions covering broadly the AfCFTA from presentations on its broad modelling to sectoral analysis, funding options, digital economy opportunities, description of the technicalities of preparing offers for goods and services schedule and, implementation strategies.
Discussions also centered on the next stage of the negotiations, covering investment, intellectual property and competition in a bid to deepen outreach, expand capacity, dispel the myths and the fiction, deepen consensus and accelerate the hard work of mainstreaming the technical vocabulary of trade policy into mainstream development plans.
Minister Enelamah said participants should think AfCFTA implementation, think stakeholders, build consensus and move Africa into the 21st Century on the platform of Agenda 2063 and the 2018 Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area.
This year’s Africa Trade Forum was co-organized by Nigeria, the African Union Commission, the Economic Commission for Africa and the Rockefeller Foundation.