The African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has the potential to lift millions of people out of poverty and end food insecurity on the Continent, but Nigeria has not been positioned as the ‘real’ stakeholder for agro-export under this agreement, MD/CEO, Abx World Limited, Captain John Okakpu has said.
Okakpu who dropped the hint over the weekend, stressed that the country participation and gain from AfCFTA, in the agricultural value chain, depends on the effectiveness and implementation of government policies, especially in the agricultural sector.
He said that AfCFTA will form a $3.4 trillion economic bloc, which Nigeria cannot afford to be out.
Available reports show that trade between African nations in agricultural products as a percentage of Africa’s total agricultural trade remains below 20 per cent, one of the lowest in any region. Total trade between African nations was only 2 per cent in the period 2015–2017, compared with 67 per cent in trade between European countries, 61 per cent in Asian countries, and 47 per cent in the Americas, according to UN trade agency UNCTAD.
“Now, AfCFTA intends to change the narrative. It has created the world’s largest free trade area, representing the 1.2 billionconsumer market, and mandates states to remove tariffs and non-tariffs in order to boost shipments and services between nations, and boost economic growth in doing so.
“If you look at the trend, Africa exports agricultural products such as tomatoes, onions, vegetables, cocoa, coffee, cotton, yam tobacco and spices to the nations of the world to earn significant foreign exchange. But the continent imports important foods such as cereals, vegetable oils, dairy products and meat in large quantities. Now, our neighbouring countries have positioned themselves to benefit from AfCFTA by building robust logistics and cost-effective export systems. So, looking at it critically, our logistics cost cemented our losses on AfCFTA unless we address it now, ”Okakpu said.
Okakpu who chairs a 28-member Nigeria Agro Set-Up Committee inaugurated by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), with a mandate to reinvigorate broad national agricultural activities across the country, added that capacity building for farmers, regulators and top government officials is another major factor that must be considered for the country to get her acts together.
He said that the most basic of agro export requirements is the knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which is completely missing in Nigeria.