There are fears that Africans will reject the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement if the accord benefits only industrialized countries on the continent. Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement Secretariat, Wamkele Mene, stated this in Abuja when he paid a courtesy visit to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan.
Mene said African countries will have to find ways of ensuring that there is inclusivity, shared growth, and shared benefit in the way AfCFTA will be implemented.
“It’s possible to do it because we know that other regions across the world and here in Africa have done it. If we are not able to ensure that we have inclusive growth here in Africa resulting from this trade agreement, there’s a very high risk that Africans will reject it and deservedly so,” Mene said.
Another main concern raised by the AfCFTA scribe was the transshipment of goods from countries outside the continent which he says has the potential to displace the domestic market and lead to job losses if African countries don’t take lead.
He expressed his determination to work with the Nigerian government and other African countries in putting an end to transshipment.
“I will have the opportunity to meet with the head of the Customs authority. I am determined to make sure that we work together in a coordinated way across the African continent to put in place mechanisms and an action plan to fight transshipment and to fight job losses that result from transshipment,” he said.
Mene was elected in March by the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union to drive the integration process of the continent’s market through AfCFTA.
He is on a working visit to Nigeria and believes the country is central in taking inter-regional trade farther. Nigeria has signed the agreement but yet to officially participate in the Continental Free Trade which already has been ratified by 30 other African countries.
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement to yield intended results, it must be backed by requisite legal frameworks, right policies, and robust implementation.
Lawan who was represented by the Senate’s Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, said the initial momentum from the signing of the agreement needs to be continued, for a greater continental impact.
He said Nigeria has the biggest market and economy on the continent and has a strategic role to play in the evolution and stabilization of the African economy.
“The Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations, which is the agency of government, responsible for managing, coordinating, and leading all trade and trade related negotiations, has the clear mandate of managing Nigeria’s side of the agreement,” he said.