Secretary-General African Continental Free Trade Area, His Excellency, Mr. Wamkele Keabetswe Mene has said the success of AfCTA would largely depend on the shared benefits by all African states.
Mena said this during a courtesy call to the President of the Senate in Abuja, pointing out that smaller countries are rather disturbed that AcFTA may not positively impact on their economies.
He said AfCTA has the potential to lift over 100 million Africans but there are challenges that must be surmounted, this he stressed should be taken seriously to promote inclusiveness in the African economy.
This he said would make AfCTA fail in the continent and it behoves on the bigger economies of Africa to ensure that these smaller countries enjoy from the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“So, we, as Africans have a unique opportunity to significantly advance our economic development objectives, leveraging on trade. We have the opportunity to double inter-African trade by the year 2035.
“We have the opportunity to lift almost a hundred million Africans by the year 2025 to lift almost 100 million Africans from extreme poverty and for moderate poverty. I believe that, with, all my being.
“That it’s possible for us to do that with this new vision of the African continent on the free trade area. We owe it to the populations. We all wait to our peoples to do it.
“However, some of these challenges that I mentioned will, of course, have to be tackled and with the support of Nigeria and with the support of yourselves distinguished Senators, I know that we can take the necessary steps to create a better Africa, too.
Meme had earlier identified some challenges, which identified inclusiveness of all African economies big and small, use of digital platforms that will promote African economies amongst others.
His words: “We must put in place mechanisms and an action plan to fight trans-shipment and to fight job losses that result from trans-shipment.
“The second issue is that throughout my travels on the continent I have heard that this AfCFTA benefits only the already industrialized countries in Africa.
“If it benefits only the industrialized economies and countries in Africa, it’s not going to succeed. So we got to find ways of ensuring that in its implementation, there is inclusivity.
“That there is shared benefits; that there is shared growth throughout the African continent.
“It’s possible to do it because we know that some other regions across the world and here in Africa have done it. They’ve leveraged trade agreements for inclusive growth. If we’re not able to ensure that we have inclusive growth in Africa resulting from this agreement. There’s a very high risk that Africans will reject it and deservedly so.
“If it benefits only a few countries and if it benefits only multinational corporations in Africa.
“So, we’ve got to take active steps and inclusive growth that results from the implementation of this agreement.
“That means that we must look very very closely at the role of women in trade young Africans and trade. We know that where I am going in Lagos. We know that they are young Africans who are at The Cutting Edge off innovation for digital trade creating Platforms in financial technology.
“You go to Kigali, you will find similar talent and other talents in other areas of the economy. Therefore, it is for me. It is incumbent upon me to find platforms for bringing these segments of society with us as we implement this agreement.
“Otherwise we run the risk of being very similar to what is happening in other countries that I don’t want to mention by name where globalization, free trade, has led to disillusionment ant and rejection completely of some of the benefits of globalization and therefore we’ve got to avoid this mistake.
“So we’ve got to make sure that the youth dividend in Africa is achieved especially as they are innovative. So that we leverage on it and that young Africans can see the future and that young Africans don’t have to go anymore to Europe in search of better lives and that young Africans are no longer buried in the depths of the Mediterranean oceans in their search for this better life.
“So, we’ve got to make sure that we have this focus on women and trade; we have this focus on the informal sector.
“We know that the informal sector contributes over 70% to Africa’s GDP. Driven largely by women. So we’ve got to make sure that we accommodate these very important segments of society.
“Using digital platforms. It is very possible for the AfCFTA to connect the informal sector across the African continent. We know for example that there are women farmers in Kenya who exports their flowers to the European Union using digital platforms.
“So it is possible for us to use the latest innovations to bring onboard our people as we implement this agreement.
“We want to devise a payments platform so that when you trade and that the African continent of the free trade area, you can transact in your local currency payments and settlement platform that will significantly reduce the costs of payment that will enhance affordability and enhance access of Small-Medium Enterprises to other markets around Africa and the globe,” Meme told the Senate.
In his reaction, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan said Nigeria’s commitment to the African Continental Free Trade Area was not a mere appendage of her signature to the agreement but to promote trade and improve on the quality of lives of all Nigerians and Africans to the deal.
Senator Lawan who was represented by the Deputy Leader of the Senate said all legislative interventions needed to actualize AfCTA would be done by the Nigerian legislature.
He noted that individual countries have made efforts to boost the respective economies with limited successes, and noted that an expanded economy would be a great platform for all-inclusive and prosperous participation.
According to Lawan: “The Senate and the National Assembly are ever committed to providing legislative support for the achievement of not just inclusive growth, and a robust development, but to leaving a legacy of service for the present and future generations.
“We understand the African Continental Free Trade Agreement as an important one to further integrate Africa.
“It is a step in the right direction for the growth of our economies, through limited restrictions, leading to the stimulation of trade, commerce, and industry. The agreement is an incentive to businesses and economic opportunities, coming from increased multipliers.
“Many of our economies are emerging, aside from facing the challenges of unemployment, and underemployment, which have been a trigger for both regular and irregular migration.
“The economies have been characterized by low productivity, reduced efficiency, and the problem of limited resources.
“A sustained and prosperous economy depends on favourable market forces, which are also reliant on right policies, and good governance.
“For many years, we have strived to remedy the situation as individual countries. Our efforts sometimes yield positive results but the realisation that a greater unity is a further boost to us all is a step in the right direction.
“In signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), and depositing the instrument with the African Union Commission, our countries made a statement on the determination of our collective economic fate. This fate is in our hands, through requisite legal frameworks, right policies, and a robust implementation.
“Nigeria’s action in signing was not just evidence of our commitment to the spirit of Africa, but a sign of our trust in a unified economic growth. The multiple benefits of the arrangement is also not lost on us.
“As the biggest market and economy on the continent, we have a strategic role to play in the evolution and stabilization of the African economy.”
The President of the Senate alleged the fears of Meme on the possible job losses as he stated that “we are ready to expand the possibilities through our status, with your confidence in us, and the demands of posterity.”
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