PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Monday inaugurated the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Impact and Readiness Assessment Committee charged with the responsibility of addressing the issues raised during the nationwide stakeholder consultations on the agreement.

Performing the ceremony at the presidential villa, Abuja, he said the committee is expected to develop short, medium and long-term measures that will address any challenges arising therefrom.

The outcome is expected to determine whether or not Nigeria will sign the agreement which was in March this year, endorsed by nearly 50 African countries at a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.

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The president said the setting up of the committee was necessitated by the key issues raised by stakeholders during the consultations on the AfCTFA, including abuse of rules of origin, smuggling arising from difficulties in border controls, un-quantified impacts of legacy preferential trade agreements; low capacity and capabilities of local business to conduct international trade, cost of finance, insufficient energy; and transport logistics infrastructure, to mention a few.

Buhari stated that while the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), of the present administration focusing on the revival of key job creating and import substitution sectors such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing and services were being seamlessly implemented, “we have not lost sight of regional and international trends, especially on trade where global dynamics are shifting and changing at a rapid rate.”

Pres. Buhari locked in handshake with Pres. of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba while chatting with the DG, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside on the president’s left after the inauguration of the committee at the Council Chambers, State House, Abuja.

He added: ”This means that as we plan for the long term, we must also be flexible enough to respond to short-term shocks that could upset our economic diversification and backward integration plans.

“It is against this background that we are gathered here today on the subject of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, AfCFTA,which was introduced early in the year.

“However, although this assertion makes easy sense in theory, the reality of doing business in Africa poses its own peculiar challenges.

“You will all recall that some months ago, the Vice President at an event reminded Nigerians that the concept of free trade implies a fundamental assumption of the level and competitive playing field that is fair.

“For those of you who are in business, I am sure you will all agree that Africa’s trading landscape, as it stands, is multifaceted.

“For us in Nigeria, our vision for intra-Africa trade is for the free movement of ‘made in Africa goods.’ This means the goods and services must have significant African content in terms of raw materials and value addition to the production and service processes.

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“Therefore, the Continental Free Trade Area must be packaged and implemented to achieve this vision. This is the only way the majority of Africans will positively benefit from it.”

The committee which has 12 weeks to produce “a clear roadmap for Nigeria as it relates to the AfCFTA,” is headed by the Minister of Industry, Okechukwu Enelamah, as chairman with the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, as co-chairman.

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