“Dream big, start small, but most of all, start” – Simon Sinek
Nigeria’s journey to enjoying the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) opportunity began when President Muhammadu Buhari signed the agreement on July 7, 2019.
Since then, stakeholders have been planning, strategizing, and discussing the goods and services that Nigeria has competitive advantage of over other African countries.
Indeed, for more than a year, the government has been sensitizing Nigerians on how the free trade opportunity will benefit businesses and the economy. From North to South, East and West, the National Action Committee on AfCFTA has been moving around the country, sharing this good news.
Nigeria became eligible to trade freely in products and services with 55 African countries when the instruments of ratification for the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement was deposited with the African Union last year December.
As contained in Article 23 of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA, Nigerian will also be bound by the rules of origin, tariffs and procedures on the settlement of disputes on the day the instruments are deposited.
The agreement stated that countries that have ratified the agreement would have to comply with protocols on Investment, intellectual property rights, competition policy, and any other instrument within the scope of this agreement.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, prepared the instrument of ratification for the AfCFTA following its ratification by the Federal Executive Council.
The instrument was then signed by President Buhari and transmitted to the African Union.
The intra-African free trade opportunity officially kicked off on January 1, 2021.
What Will AfCFTA Achieve?
The AfCFTA aims to brings together 1.3 billion people in 55 African countries to create the world’s largest free trade area as measured by the number of participating member states.
It’s main objective is the creation of an integrated market for the trade in goods and services and the free movement of people and capital within Africa.
The agreement requires immediate removal of tariffs on 90 per cent of goods while additional tariffs on 10 per cent of goods classified as sensitive goods would be negotiated on an agreed date.
It is expected that the AfCFTA would accelerate the continent’s recovery from the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic disease and strengthen Africa’s industralisation, growth and development agenda as well as its participation in international trade.
What Has Nigeria Done?
The NCA on AfCFTA has identified the trading documents required for interested exporters to trade under the agreement as Supplier/Producer’s Declaration Form. Declaration of Origin Form. AfCFTA Certificate of Origin.
It, however, said other requirements may vary between countries, however for details of Import requirements.
The government is about to establish trade remedy authorities that would investigate and address issues of origin and prevent dumping under the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement.
Certificate of Origin, Commercial Invoice, Certificate of Origin, Bill of lading, Letter of Credit, Packing list, Pro forma Invoice, Insurance Certificate, Content Analysis Certificate, Sanitary/Phytosanitary Standard have been identified as other regulatory documents for the AfCFTA trade.
The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) is also working on the administrative protocols for the implementation of AfCFTA.
To make Nigerian goods and services the most preferred on the African continent, the government needs to quickly fix infrastructure such as power, transportation and storage systems that has made cost of manufacturing and services expensive and price of goods high.
Nigerian can only compete favourably if only we can export value added products and not raw materials to other African countries. This can only be achieved if the manufacturers are given the necessary support to process raw materials and produce original products. This can be in form of subsidy or intervention funds.
Effective border policing is a priority because the free trade opportunity and the porous borders can be taken advantage of by neighbouring countries and economic saboteurs to dump cheap substandard products into the country.