Nigeria cannot participate in protocols, governing the AFCFTA agreement, unless it becomes a State party to the agreement, even, after signing the agreement.
This issue was raised by Soji Awogbade, Partner, AELEX, one of the presenters at the LCCI SME Group’s 2019 Annual Seminar, held at the LCCI Conference and Exhibition Centre, Alausa, Ikeja, on Wednesday, November 27, 2019.
“Many people, don’t know that, a lot of the work, on this agreement is yet to be done, therefore, the opportunities are in abundance, for groups , like the LCCI and it’s various sub-sectors, to make input into what becomes the final protocols and agreements, under the AFCFTA. If we keep quiet, all these situations, documents, agreements, tariffs and everything would be negotiated, while we are outside the room”, Soji feared.
Soji, also, observed that, as at the time that, the Seminar was going on, Nigeria was yet to become a State party to the AFCFTA, stating that Nigeria just, needed to take one or two administrative steps in Abuja, to become a State party, but that is not being done. “It is, also, more saddening, to let you know that, the State parties, 27 of them, only, have written and are writing documents and protocols that will govern every county that has signed up”, Soji stressed.
The theme of the LCCI SME Group’s 2019 Annual Seminar was; Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, (AFCFTA: Realities For The Nigerian SME’s.
In his opening remarks at the event, Babatunde Paul Ruwase, FCA, President of LCCI, who was represented by Ms. Shade Benington-Young, noted that it was pertinent for stakeholders to keep reminding themselves of the enormous responsibility, that comes with signing the AFCFTA agreement.
“As you are all aware, Nigeria, on the 7th of July 2019, signed the AFCFTA agreement. It is, therefore, important that, we constantly, remind ourselves of the huge responsibility that comes with this agreement”, Babatunde noted. He, therefore, wished the attendees, have fruitful deliberations.
Oladapo Abiodun, the Chairman of the LCCI SME Group, had, earlier in his welcome address, raised the question on whether the Nigerian SME could take advantage of the emerging opportunities presented by AFCFTA. “Can Nigerian SME’s take advantage of the emerging opportunities, being offered by AFCFTA? This seminar, therefore, is our effort, to critique it and come up with workable suggestions”, Oladapo noted.
In his own presentation, Fola Aiyeola, President, West Africa Business Council, is of the opinion that, signing the AFCFTA agreement by Nigeria is good, but, we must improve on the state of our infrastructure, especially, electricity, if we must compete favourably, on the production of goods and services to be traded within Africa, baded on the AFCFTA agreement. Aiyeola, however, gave four recommendations, that can enhance the participation of SME’s in Nigeria, in the AFCFTA. They are as follows:
- Let Nigerian government declare state of emergency and acceleration of its industrial development.
- Let the government provide 5% of its daily income, from crude oil, on the development of SMEs in Nigeria.
- Let the government establish an SME bank that will grant loans, only to the SMEs
- Let the government take over the energy sector from the present ownership, to be able to move the sector to good operational level.
Prince O. Williams-Joel, Senior Partner, Prince Joel Associates, in his own presentation at the seminar, highlighted the major benefits of AFCFTA, which he identified as, size, free movement and trade.
He stated that, Africa is a big continent with close to 1.3 billion people and AFCFTA will facilitate the free movement of African people, across borders, to trade freely with one another.
He, also, emphasized the need to take advantage of ICT and social media platforms, to boost their trade on the African continent.
Engineer Mrs. Nwaoma Olujie, Lagos State Coordinator, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON and Oyeyipo Samuel, Regional Coordinator, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, NEPC, represented by Chinedu Ezenwa and Mrs. Francisca Odega, respectively, were, also, present at the seminar.
They both stated the importance of Nigeria, signing the AFCFTA agreement, to SMEs in Nigeria and what their respective organisations are doing to assist the SMEs in Nigeria, to take full advantage of AFCFTA, in running their businesses, across Africa.
L-R: Soji Awogbade, Partner, AELEX, Mrs. Francisca Odega, who represented Oyeyipo Samuel, Regional Coordinator, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, NEPC, Prince O. Williams-Joel, Senior Partner, Prince Joel Associates, Mrs. Janet A. Omisore, Director, Tahetes Integrated Limited, who moderated the panel of discussion, Fola Aiyeola, President, West Africa Business Council, and Chinedu Ezenwa, who represented Engineer Mrs. Nwaoma Olujie, Lagos State Coordinator, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, at the LCCI SME Group’s 2019 Annual Seminar, held at the LCCI Conference and Exhibition Centre, Alausa, Ikeja, on Wednesday, November 27, 2019.
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