Exploit Africa Continental Free Trade Area, Sanwo-Olu Urges Business Community

Exploit Africa Continental Free Trade Area, Sanwo-Olu Urges Business Community

Segun James

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has urged Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises, (MSME) to take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, (AfCFTA) as government is duty bound to providing the platform and exposing them to skills required to accelerate the effectiveness to stimulate intra-African Trade.

The governor gave the charge during the 8th Lagos State MSMES Exclusive Trade Fair in Ikoyi. The fair is designated as an annual marketing access and intervention platform for Lagos MSME operators to showcase their products and services to the larger population of the state and Nigeria at large.

The governor who was represented by his Deputy, Dr Kadri Obafemi Hamzat disclosed that to achieve the goals of AfCTA, the state government had set up Technical Working Group on AfCFTA, which comprises the representatives of both the public and private sectors.

The theme of this year’s edition of the fair: “Empowering MSMEs for AFCFTA Excellence through Sustainable Economic Growth’ was a means of identifying new opportunities for diversification and value chain development available under the agreement

The governor said, “There is no other place I would rather be on a day like this, than around you all to challenge you and open your horizon to the economic potentials embedded in this sector for our dear State.

“In most developed and developing countries, the MSME sector is far bigger than the formal economy and it is a means of livelihood for many people. This sector is a huge economic catalyst, as it constitutes 95 to 98 percent of all businesses, generates 50 percent of the Gross Domestic Products, GDP and creates between 60 to 70 percent of employment.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia for example, workers in this sector are estimated to account for about 90 percent of the labour force.

“It is quite important, as it bears direct relevance to the clarion call of our administration to transform and position the state as a 21st Century Economy, in line with our T.H.E.M.E.S+ Development Agenda, and in alignment with the economic diversification agenda of the federal government.

“Given the prevailing economic uncertainties, added value is an important strategy to acquire and retain customers, increase brand awareness, and differentiate one’s place in the AfCFTA market.

“Consequent upon Nigeria’s joining the AfCFTA, which is poised to become a game changer for the African economy, we are duty bound to position our MSMEs to take advantage of this continental agreement by providing the platform and exposing them to skillsets required to accelerate the effectiveness of AfCFTA in stimulating intra-African Trade.

“This will particularly impact the exports of the state and the nation to African countries, significantly increasing it between 10 percent and 15 percent in the nearest future. By extension, it will tremendously increase the Gross Domestic Product, GDP of Nigeria, of which our dear State’s economy is a subset.

“We understood that we are in a critical time when we cannot afford to downplay the things that we need to do to support our MSMEs to produce high quality products to meet the demand of AfCFTA market in the leather, fishery, rice production, vegetables, food products, livestock and many other sectors.

“We know we must put in place relevant infrastructure to enable MSMEs in the state compete favourably among other African countries. We also appreciate the fact that all hands must be on deck, to enable the state government significantly increase exports through the MSMEs, to other African nations.

“Aside the MSMEs Exclusive Trade Fair, the governor highlighted that other programmes designed by the state government to boost MSMEs include, Lagos International Trade Fair; providing access to finance through agencies such as Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, and provision of infrastructure such as the 44-Unit Light Industrial Park, Imota, construction of roads and bridges, completion and operation of the Lagos Blue Light Rail and many others.”

He explained that, “these efforts are geared towards assisting entrepreneurs and business owners to mitigate challenges hindering market access, finance, production and movement of goods and services across the state.

“Our administration also initiated the idea of the Leather and Fashion Hubs and renovation of all state-owned industrial estates to encourage production, to aid this sector to break into the economic cycle and gain access into the AfCFTA market.

“However, beyond all the gains and support we have been reputed for, it is the challenge of benchmarking our state and positioning her as a foremost shining global Mega City and prime investment haven that is paramount to us.

“In light of this, the provision of promotional tools that encourage the establishment and growth of businesses remain one of the major priorities of our administration.

“With deliberate policy, this administration is putting in place the support system needed by MSMEs to meet our target of exporting to Africa and beyond with the intention to increase the productivity of entrepreneurs, improve the wellbeing of the citizenry and set the state on the path of sustainable economic growth.

“We have already expressed our readiness for this next phase by setting up the State Technical Working Group on AfCFTA, which comprises the representatives of both the public and private sectors. We are going beyond this to identify new opportunities for diversification and value chain development available under the agreement, along with complementary actions needed to overcome existing constraints to intra-African trade.

“Our administration will designate a cluster for selected exportable products and provide the required system, including collaborations with relevant federal government agencies, to facilitate the export of MSMEs products,” the governor stated.

In her welcome address, the State Commissioner for Commerce, Cooperatives, Trade and Investment, Mrs Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, said “The AfCFTA, with 43 parties and and 11 signatories, is the largest free trade area by number of member states, after the World Trade Organisation.

“The Agreement thus represents a historic opportunity for Africa to integrate its economies and create a single market, fostering intra-African trade and driving economic development. Lagos, as the economic heartbeat of Nigeria, stands at the forefront of this transformative journey. However, for AfCFTA to truly unleash its potentials, we must recognise the indispensable role that MSMEs play in our economic landscape.”

She added, “Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs are the backbone of our economy, constituting a significant portion of businesses in Lagos State. They are the engines of innovation, employment generation, and poverty alleviation. Recognising the importance of MSMEs, the present administration has prioritised initiatives aimed at enhancing their capacities, fostering entrepreneurship, and creating an enabling environment for sustainable growth.”

Related Articles