African Free Trade Agreement Needs Legal Backing, Says Lawan

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Ahmad Lawan

By Deji Elumoye

President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, has stated that the need for necessary legal backing for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to become effective.

He also stressed that for the agreement to yield expected results, it must be backed by the right policies and robust implementation.

Lawan made this disclosure yesterday while playing host to a delegation from the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat led by the Secretary-General, Wamkele Keabetswe Mene.

The Senate president, who was represented by the Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroffice, said the intent behind Nigeria’s decision to sign the agreement on July 7, 2019, during the 12th Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in Niamey, was to benefit Africans on the continent and outside it.

According to Lawan, aside facing the challenges of unemployment and underemployment, which have been a trigger for both regular and irregular migration, the economies of African countries have been characterised by low productivity, reduced efficiency, and the problem of limited resources.

He, therefore, described the African Continental Free Trade Agreement as “a step in the right direction for the growth of African economies through limited restrictions, leading to the stimulation of trade, commerce, and industry.

“In signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), and depositing the instrument with the African Union Commission, our countries made a statement on the determination of our collective economic fate. This fate is in our hands through requisite legal frameworks, right policies, and a robust implementation.

“The initial momentum from the signing of the agreement needs to be continued for a greater continental impact to benefit Africans both on the continent and outside it.”

Lawan added that “the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations, which is the agency of government responsible for managing, coordinating and leading all trade and trade-related negotiations, has the clear mandate of managing Nigeria’s side of the agreement.”

According to him, “Nigeria’s action in signing it was not just an evidence of our commitment to the spirit of Africa, but a sign of our trust in a unified economic growth. The multiple benefit of the arrangement is also not lost on us.

“As the biggest market and economy on the continent, we have a strategic role to play in the evolution and stabilisation of the African economy. We are ready to expand the possibilities through our status, with your confidence in us, and the demands of posterity.”

Speaking earlier, the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat, Mene, noted that the success of the trade agreement was largely dependent on the measure of benefit accruing to African countries.

“The AfCTA, if it benefits only the big countries in Africa, is not going to work,” Mene said.

According to him, the secretariat, going forward, would look up to Nigeria for guidance in coming up with policies and ways of implementing the content of the trade agreement to accommodate the interest of all African countries.