The federal government has disclosed that by taking advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Nigeria has the capacity to export $3 billion worth of derivatives from cocoa and $300 million from the sale of the raw unprocessed commodity.
Speaking on Arise News Channel, THISDAY’s broadcast arm, recently, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters, Mr. Francis Anatogu, who is also the Secretary of the National Action Committee (NAC) for Nigeria’s AfCFTA implementation, noted that there is massive opportunities in the area if well harnessed.
He argued that it was in the interest of the federal government to make sure that the policies that it puts in the public space make it easier for businesses to thrive, saying it is only then that they can make money and pay taxes to the government.
“During the recession of 2016, not only did revenue from oil drop, our tax revenue also dropped. That tells you the implication of the complex ecosystems that we’ll need to build to take Nigeria to the 21st century,” he explained. With AfCFTA, Anatogu stated that compliance would be critical because there are some risks that if all stakeholders don’t comply, there will be issues.
While stating that there has to be a balance between trade liberalisation and protection of local industries, he noted that with a big market like Nigeria, it would not only hurt industries, but also revenues, explaining that for instance the closing of the borders recently helped in the growth of the rice market. “The message is that we will not hesitate to take whatever decision that is necessary to protect ourselves as a country. Even as we get into AfCFTA, we are calling on everybody to obey the rules and make sure we all move in sync,” he said.
“This will be a very difficult agreement to implement. It will take years to implement. There are problems along the way and it will take trust among ourselves,” he added. Anatogu, argued that though there are issues to be resolved, it still does not take away the objectives and the opportunities that the AfCFTA holds.
He emphasised that coordination remains an area for improvement for the AfCFTA, between MDAs, the private sector and the public sector as well as coordination between federal and state governments. The president’s aide explained that there are efforts being made in that direction to improve coordination and joint planning, saying that the process would get better as the country moves towards export orientation and non-oil growth.
He added that individuals and businesses are already taking advantage and moving into Africa. “We cannot be competitive in every sector or on every product. So, we need to focus on areas where we have competitive advantage and build an ecosystem system around it. “So, our approach is that we grow the value chain in areas we have the advantage, for example in Cocoa, we need to start exporting chocolate and other derivatives and we can target to export $300 million worth of cocoa per annum which is a huge target or we can focus on market of over $3 billion of same cocoa but looking at the value chain,” Anatogu argued.
He said that stakeholders such as the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) were carrying out training and development programmes on how Nigerians can take advantage of the programme. Anatogu had said being successful with the AfCFTA would mean achieving a diversified and sustainable Nigerian economy with strong linkages with neighbours and the top economies in Africa as well as a globally accepted country brand.
According to him, concerns of rules of origin was being addressed by stakeholders on the continent, stressing that only goods produced in the continent will benefit from the AfCFTA. He stated that authorities to administer the rules of origin rules were being established and the concept has been agreed upon.
“Rules of origin means that for the products, if they are not made 100 per cent in Africa, they do not qualify and in others if they do not meet the rules of substantial transformation, they also do not qualify. And this will guide the AfCFTA agreement. It does not mean that those products cannot come in, but they cannot benefit from the packages in the agreement,” he added.