Experts: Nigeria Will Benefit from AfCFTA if Properly Harnessed

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Tobi Soniyi

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the world’s largest free trade area with a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion, presents Nigeria with many opportunities if properly harnessed.

This was the verdict of experts who converged on Lagos last Tuesday to discuss how Nigeria could benefit from the agreement.

The session, an A-class Roadshow, was hosted by world leading law firm Baker McKenzie in collaboration with Templars, a Nigerian law firm.

The international law firm, Baker McKenzie’s is reputed to operate from 73 offices in 53 countries around the world with over 13,000 staff.

The event, which was attended by lawyers, accountants, economists and telecoms operators focused on how Nigeria can maximize the benefits from ratifying and domesticating the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA).

Welcoming participants to the event, the Managing Partner of Templars law firm, Mr. Olumide Akpata said ‘International trade had caught the attention of Nigeria since AfCTA came in.

He said Templars decided to work with Mckenzie Baker to engage the process.

According to him, there is so much more outside of AfCTA and professional service providers must pay attention to what is happening around the continent in terms of trade.

The lead speaker, Mr. Herman Warren of the Economist Magazine examined the global performance of African countries and what it portends for the rest of the world.

He noted that although the United States Dollar had global challenges, it is still strong to withstand the onslaught of other world currencies, concluding that the ongoing US-China trade war holds positive results for African countries.

The economic overview was followed by a panel session moderated by Mattias Hedwall, Partner and Global Chair, International Commercial & Trade, Baker McKenzie.

Other panelists were Virusha Subban, Partner and Head of Indirect Tax, Baker McKenzie, Kerry Contini, Partner, International Trade Practice Group, Baker McKenzie, Ijeoma Uju, Partner, Corporate & Commercial Practice Group, Templars, Professor Jonathan Aremu, Professor of International Economic Relations, Covenant University, Nigeria and Jesuseun Fatoyinbo, Head of Trade, Stanbic IBTC Plc.

The panelists discussed issues surrounding global geopolitical concerns such as trade wars and Brexit; global & local legal/regulatory hurdles including export controls, customs & excise duties; and perspectives on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement in relation to Nigeria.

The session was characterized by a great deal of knowledge exchange with important experiences from other economic environments and a resolution of the many opportunities which the agreement presents the African continent if properly implemented.

The event follows another recent collaboration with Baker McKenzie where the firms hosted a roundtable on the Nigerian power sector that addressed the challenges operators faced within the sector as well as exploring appropriate and effective solutions.