By Obinna Chima
The Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan has said the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will rely heavily on the financial services industry’s ability to facilitate the liberalisation process.
Akinwuntan, who made this submission at a webinar titled: “Exploring Nigeria’s Readiness for the African Continental Free Trade Area,” organised by Deloitte, maintained that the banking industry in Nigeria was ready for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
The continental deal, according to the Ecobank boss would be responsible for facilitating transactions, mobilising savings, allocating capital funds and monitoring managers so that the funds allocated would be utilised as envisaged, as well as managing risks.
Akinwuntan said: “Nigeria banks have strong capital and their operating synergies have been tremendous for the past five years particularly in the digital banking space. Nigeria is a leading player on the continent in payments required to facilitate trade; mobilisation of savings required to galvanise the economy; focus on the SME segment, which is the largest employer of labour especially in the critical industries such as agriculture as Africa is a continent that is rich in commodities; education of our teeming population and health.”
Furthermore, the Ecobank Managing Director said for financial institutions to adequately play their expected roles, they would need to drive value creation by developing new technologies, scaling its payment infrastructure and methods to a pan African play to serve the diversified economies expected from the agreement.
Continuing, a statement quoted him to have added: “Africa’s financial services sector will also be relied on to provide the credit and support necessary for certain industries to move forward particularly the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors, which will be at the centre of Africa’s development goals following the AfCFTA enactment.
“Nigerian financial service industry has the basic platform to enable African financial services to contribute significantly to the trade area. The BVN innovation in Nigeria is unique, more like the social security number in USA.”
Earlier, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo, said the Nigerian government was irrevocably committed to the success of the AfCTA.
According to him, the AfCFTA complements Nigeria’s export diversification aspiration as it provides preferential market access for Nigerian products and services in the vast African market.
In his welcome address, Delloite CEO, West Africa, Fatai Folarin, said his organisation decided to organise the webinar to create awareness on the attendant benefits inherent in AfCTA.
He explained the trade agreement aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business, persons and investments within the African region.
The AfCFTA due to commence in January 2021, will pave the way for a rapid dismantling of such impediments to cross-border trade. Alongside the removal of tariff barriers, the AfCFTA will also focus attention on outstanding nontariff barriers (NTBs), an important step toward increased trade in the region.