At WEF in Davos, Shettima Explains Why AfCFTA Must Not Be Allowed to Fail

* Woos more foreign investors to Nigeria

* Says nation’s policies in energy, digital, creative sectors delight investors

Deji Elumoye in Abuja 

Vice-President Kashim Shettima has said the need to increase intra-Africa trade currently put at 15% and its potential to raise the continent’s GDP are some of the compelling reasons why the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement must not be allowed to fail. 

According to him, AfCFTA would help galvanize GDP growth on the continent, just as he said based on the World Bank projections, AfCFTA will increase Africa’s GDP by $450 billion in 2035, and exports by more than 81 per cent. 

Shettima, according to a release issued on Thursday by his media assistant, Stanley Nkwocha, spoke at a breakfast event with African Heads of State to launch the Action Plan for AfCFTA on the sideline of the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. 

His words: “African trade is to be boosted by 52.3% by 2025. We should increase these targets and look at the trillions of dollars. African countries need to move quickly to iron out whatever agreements and impediments are remaining to ensure free and smooth trade. Issues around rules of origin negotiations must be completed.” 

To achieve the set objectives, the vice-president suggested that “information sharing with private sector players must be optimized and prioritized,” even as he said trade is a private sector imperative, which governments only facilitate.

He further noted that: “Negotiations have turned out to be too slow, with clashes between national and continental priorities, leading to too few consummated deals between countries since January 2021 to date. 

“Looking ahead, there is need for speed and cohesion among African countries. The idea of AfCFTA must not fail, and there is no room for mediocrity in today’s world.”

Citing examples of trade unions in Europe, the Americas and Asia, Shettima said: “African trade cannot continue to be externalized even though we have increased intra-Africa trade from a mere 7% a decade ago, to about 15% today.” 

According to him, while Intra-European Trade is around 70 per cent, there is need for African leaders to do a lot better in organically empowering countries on the continent and solving their own problems.

He urged Africa’s private sector players to be proactive in stepping up to the plate to occupy their pride of place in trade on the continent. 

Meanwhile, armed with Nigeria’s enviable position as Africa’s largest economy, coupled with ongoing efforts by the Tinubu administration to diversify the economy from oil with deeper footprints in technology and the creative sector, among others, Shettima on Wednesday told foreign investors that the country is on the right path to becoming their delight. 

The vice-president spoke at a forum to welcome investors to a parley with Nigerian officials on the sidelines of the ongoing World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

Shettima said the President Bola Tinubu administration is on a drive to “bring in the entire ecosystem of investors, from private equity players, to venture capitalists, impact investors and competent contractors from all over the world to partner with us in this quest”. 

On the potentials in the country as a major attraction for investors, the vice-president said: “Nigeria occupies an enviable position as the continent’s largest economy and with the largest population. Nigeria is currently repositioning her economy away from crude oil dominance, with deeper footprints in technology, arts, culture, creativity and industrialisation. 

“Recent developments in our energy sector portend that Nigeria is leading the region in energy security and energy transition. International and domestic energy companies are already engaging the global community and subscribing to the innovations of the future.”

Shettima maintained that Nigeria remains open to engage with willing nations on mutually beneficial and sustainable terms, underscoring why the country is a reference point for best global practices. 

“We have our export, Dr Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, heading up the World Trade Organisation, meaning that Nigeria must show to be a shining example in the best global trade practices. 

“Recently, Nigeria removed the infamous 43 trade items from foreign exchange ban, opening up the space entirely, in what is actually a very bold move,  signifying full trade liberalisation,” he noted.

On efforts by the Tinubu administration in ensuring a conducive environment for investment, Shettima said: “Nigeria also totally liberalised the downstream petroleum sector, removing the burdensome subsidies and also we instituted a market-driven foreign exchange market, which outlawed multiple exchange rates in the economy.” 

He said the country intends to participate fully in the Global Value Chains (GVC) at many levels, aiming for good value capture as it becomes even more relevant to global supply chains. 

Shettima listed priorities for the country to include “repositioning our energy sector, investing in major infrastructure like our rail system, roads, new seaports, and digital technology for our vibrant youthful population to engage the world.

“Nigeria also targets a $1 trillion economy within eight years and this requires that we grow our economy in leaps and bounds. A new era of accountability and productivity is being instituted under the guidance of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.  

“Nigeria is an investor’s delight. There is so much to do. So many sectors to engage in. We intend to make the country into a huge construction site in a matter of months. We have rejigged our revenue administration, and will soon match up with some of the most efficient countries in the world.” 

The vice-president also spoke about the emergence of new sectors such as the Blue Economy, Digital Economy, Steel sector, Gas Subsector, and Alternative Energy, among others. 

In the same vein, Shettima has said under President Tinubu a lot is being done to reposition Nigeria’s image, tackle remaining pockets of insecurity and project Nigeria to the world. 

He disclosed this at an event to celebrate Nigeria’s cultural richness and diversity on the sideline of the ongoing WEF in Davos. 

According to him, “Nigeria’s diversity is her strength. We have over 300 different languages. Each culture has something to learn from others. And something to teach.”

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