Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged Nigerian businesses and the entire private sector to tap into the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which comes into force by Jan. 2021.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Thursday in Abuja, said the vice president spoke at the opening session of the 52nd Annual National Conference of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM).
The theme of the conference is, “Nigeria and Manpower Preparedness for the African Continental Free Trade Area.”
The vice president said there was need for the private sector and businesses to become conversant and knowledgeable with the rules of AfCFTA which would be required so as to benefit from the treaty.
According to Osinbajo, it is imperative for Nigerian businesses to also familiarise themselves with AfCFTA rules because they will have to assist in providing the evidence to trigger action on trade remedies by government.
“Building productive capacity is only the first step; the ability of our businesses and entrepreneurs to integrate successfully into the opportunities of the AfCFTA also depends a great deal on strengthening our domestic ability to facilitate trade.
“Our logistics chains, port processes, and customs procedures must be dynamic and efficient and it is obvious that the capacities of the operators and workers in these areas need to be rapidly upscaled through training including on the use of technologies.
“This is why we are paying particular attention to the rapid implementation of the National Single Window project which we expect to radically improve trade facilitation.
“Given the size of our economy, it is also clear that Nigeria must play a leading role in the harmonisation and integration of border management, regulatory cooperation, and the formalization of informal cross-border trade in the continent.
“These actions are necessary to assist and support our MSMEs to be able to make use of the opportunities afforded us by the AfCFTA.”
The Vice President said that Nigeria must strengthen domestic capacity to produce, disseminate and use reliable trade statistics to be able to measure the impact of AfCFTA on the economy.
He said that such capacity was important not only for monitoring progress but also for establishing safety nets as it implemented the AfCFTA.
Osinbajo also spoke on the Federal Government’s efforts to ensure that Nigeria benefited maximally from the policy.
“The creation of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN) was a deliberate decision by this government to change our approach to trade negotiations by ensuring that our participation is underpinned by top-class technical knowledge and adequate preparations.
“It is imperative that Nigeria continues to lead on AfCFTA negotiations as we move into the second phase that will focus on intellectual property, competition policy and investment policy.
“This will require the scaling up of our official negotiating capacities and the private sector must support this process by bringing its interests, concerns, and understanding of the practical dynamics of international trade to the attention of government.
The vice president said that aside prioritising trade negotiations, the Federal Government was also paying attention to the agreement on free movement of persons.
He said that for Nigeria, the protocol on free movement of persons was crucial as it had comparative advantage in very skilled and competent personnel.
The vice president said that the opportunities could not be realised without the protocols being passed.
The 3-day conference will feature presentations by Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and Mr Peter Cheese, the Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development.
Mr James Quinn, President of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), among others will also make presentations.
Edited By: Maureen Atuonwu