By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA: Commerce and Industry Stakeholders have urged the private sector to support the Nigerian government to deliver on the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which promises to integrate Africa economically and build trade connectivity for collective prosperity.
This was the crux of the opening ceremony of the 16th Abuja International Trade Fair(AITF) with the theme, “Exploring Opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
In his remarks at the opening ceremony, the Minister, Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, who noted that the theme is apt, said the Ministry is willing to partner with the chamber, expressing the belief that the Clearing Member Trade Agreement (CMTA) which Nigeria has signed and ratified, presents opportunity to achieve a number of policy goals.
Adebayo, who was represented by the Director Trade, Aliyu Abubakar, said the CMTA is the largest free trade area in the world and presents a lot of opportunities to take advantage of.
He stated that Nigeria is in the process of implementation of the CMTA, adding that measures are being put in place to implement and get it right.
“We don’t want this agreement to be like other agreements. Efforts are ongoing at the national, regional and international level to implement the CMTA”, he said. “We are willing to partner with the Chamber to foster ease of doing business, trade facilitation, investment and industrialization”.
He further urged ACCI to take advantage of the CMTA, adding that the Ministry will be working with them assiduously to facilitate the agreement.
In a special goodwill message, the National President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) Mr. Ide Udeagbala opined that the theme is timely in view of the attention AfCFTA has received and its potential benefits to the growth of the economy.
While stating that the main task is to capacitate the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to compete favourably, he added that NACCIMA will continue to promote policies that encourage private sector driven economy, maintain a network of national and international business contact and opportunities, and promote forums such as the the Trade Fair.
He called on the government at all levels to work closely with the Chambers of Commerce to give opportunity to the private sector for the benefit of all.
In his own address, the Chairman, ACCI Trade Centre, Dr. Johnson Anene, said the Trade Fair has evolved over the years and has improved on previous performance, adding that this year’s edition promises to be enriching, beneficial and profitable to all stakeholders as well as those who will come to buy and make new contact.
Speaking on the theme, he pointed out that there are a lot of opportunities wrapped within the AfCFTA, and Nigeria needs to start taking advantage of the opportunities.
“This year, we are trying to push forward the opportunities present to Nigeria’s organised sector, especially the SMEs sector. We are very happy that we are here to explore the opportunities together”, he said.
In his welcome address, the President, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Al-mujtaba Abubakar, emphasized that the organised private sector must be ready to to capitalize on the readiness of the government to deploy all state apparatus in support of Nigeria’s participation in AfCFTA.
He stated also that the Chamber, realizing that the private sector is a critically relevant partner of the government to deliver on the benefits of AfCFTA, decided to choose the theme.
In his words, “For Nigeria to benefit from AfCFTA and retain her position as the biggest economy on the continent , we must continue to work to improve our records on ease of doing business. In addition to the action plans already created by the national AfCFTA committee, a deliberate emergency action must be taken to ease the export process, ensure a single export clearing desk for exporters, force regulators to become facilitators and declare export facilitation as a national emergency.
“As a nation facing low export and high import and facing stiff competition from over 50 nations under AfCFTA, we must take export mobilisation as an emergency. The Presidency should summon leaders of agencies in the export sector to enforce single desk clearance for exporters. This is the only way to ensure Nigeria’s competitiveness and strength as the biggest economy on the continent” he said.
He further noted that the Chamber has emerged as a strong voice of the private sector that presents policy support to the government to resolve many national business challenges.
The Trade Fair is an annual event that has become a major gathering platform for businesses from all over Africa.