NAN – Despite fears in some quarters that the dearth of infrastructure in key sectors of the economy could deter the country from benefiting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the National Action Committee on the agreement says the country was working hard to ensure Nigeria’s full participation.
Co-chairman of the AfCFTA Committee on transportation, Funmi Folorunsho, said in Lagos that Nigeria was committed to ensuring it was ready to participate and derive the full benefit from the continental trade agreement.
Mrs Folorunsho who said the issue of infrastructure deficit was not unique to Nigeria, assured that the government was working seriously to tackle it within the limits of available resources.
In March 2018, the 54 African countries, including Nigeria, ratified the trade agreement, expected to come into effect on January 1, 2021.
Initially, the agreement required member-countries to remove tariff barriers from 90 percent of goods and services to allow free access to commodities, goods and services across the continent.
With the agreement, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that intra-African trade would be boosted by 52 percent by 2022.
The co-chairman explained that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTD) report for 2020 clearly stated that for the Africa free trade area to work, the deficit in infrastructure should be looked into.
She noted that figures and details had been outlined on the report on the areas that required specific attention, stating that the infrastructure deficit was not peculiar to Nigeria.
Also, Mrs Folorunsho said what needed to be done was to identify the gaps between the need and what was in existence, and that a need assessment must be done with a view to filling in those gaps.
“Unlike what we had when we were much younger, we had the ministry of transport and aviation. Today, all the modes of transport are there, with the Ministry of Works for land; Ministry of Aviation for air, Ministry of Transport for maritime and the railways.
“So, there must be coordination among all the modes of transportation by the government at public and private sector levels. The three ministries must be talking with each other for the purpose of taking optimum advantage to benefit from the African free trade area agreement,” she said.
He decried the near absent involvement and participation of the private sector in the rail sector, saying now that Africa has a bigger market to trade, there was the need for everyone, including the private sector to work together with other sectors to make the various modes of transportation work.
For transportation to work on the land, she said there was a need to expand into the bigger African markets,
Apart from the land transportation system, she said the rail system being developed would be of national use, not just for a few African countries.
Identifying aviation as one big market that would thrive under AfCFTA, Mrs Folorunsho cited the example of Ethiopian Airlines, which was still doing transportation service for medical and other services throughout the COVID-19 lockdown period.
She was of the view that if all the local airline operators come together to share ideas on the opportunities of collaboration under the AfCFTA, they might have an African trade projection on how to benefit from the African trade market and create the enabling environment for themselves outside of the country.
“There can also be a synergy of airlines. African airlines can have discussions. Where Ghana or Kenya airline stops, either Airpeace or Ibom Airline can pick up from there as this is a huge competitive market for everyone,” she said.
On sensitization, Mrs Folorunsho said the National Action Planning Committee had started working since 2019 with all stakeholders and had different workstreams, transportation just being one of them.
Since last year, she said the Committee has been engaging people, although with the COVID-19 pandemic direct engagement with people has been seriously constrained, as organisation of seminars and conferences has been jettisoned for virtual meetings with different arms of government, private and public sectors. MEDIATRACNET