Though the opportunities in African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) outweigh the drawbacks, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has advocated necessary safeguards, systems, soft and hard infrastructures including viable ICT policies must be activated to maximize the potential benefits.
Specifically, the LCCI urged the government to maximise benefits accruable from consumers and market right of access to multiple and diversified products and services and seek protection against abusive and injurious parties in and outside Nigeria based on ongoing capacity expansion of trade laws.
According to a communiqué issued at the end of a stakeholders’ forum on the AfCFTA held in Lagos, recently, the LCCI noted that the main argument against the signing of the AfCFTA was stakeholders’ fear of numerous bilateral trade agreements of some AU countries with the rest of the world and Nigeria’s underdeveloped industrial and infrastructural profile.
Stakeholders argued that there was apprehension because it was believed that the agreement will potentially make Nigeria a dumping ground due to its uncompetitive manufacturing sector, large market size and population.
Other concerns also bordered on the prevailing disconnect between regulatory agencies and policy inconsistencies among countries on the continent, and lack of data on trade within the continent and likely negative effect of poor statistics on the implementation of AfCFTA.
To address some of these challenges, the stakeholders called for policy coherence and the reinforcement of interconnectivity between agencies to protect consumers and the Nigerian economy, as well as, enhance interface between, trade, investment and governance.
It was noted that for trade to be effective and benefit from the AfCFTA existing trade focused bodies such as the Nigerian Diaspora Direct Investment Summit, National Trade Consultative Committee and the Nigerian Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council should be bolstered, with trade and infrastructure interconnected.
“The LCCI commits to working with the Director General/Chief Negotiator, Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN), Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe and take leadership in developing appropriate messaging on policy advocacy on consumer protection to sharpen standardization process.
“NOTN should initiate a standalone Consultation Committee to oversee routine stakeholders engagement and also clearly articulate all the inherent risks in the agreement with proposed mitigating measures available for consumers and business for clarity.
“Data assessment should be a permanent and continuous process helpful to the deployment of effective mechanism, trade policy, monitoring and coordinating.”
“There should be a robust framework for continuous consultation and feedback on the agreement and this should be strengthened to accommodate an extensive media campaign process to forestall further disconnect with relevant stakeholders”, the communiqué read in part.