Stakeholders of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has urged the government and its monetary authorities on ease of access to finance by Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) for their greater partici-pation and success in AfCFTA.
The Stakeholders made the call at a forum organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) themed: “AfCFTA: Roadmap to a successful implementation” on Tuesday in Lagos.
The The source reports that the AfCFTA was borne out of the need to deepen economic integration on the continent because of Afri-ca’s low intra-regional trade volume in relation to other continents like America, Europe, and Asia.
The agreement seeks to eliminate tariffs on 90 per cent of goods while also enabling micro, small, medium, and large businesses to penetrate new markets and establish strong cross-border supply chains with trade partners on the continent.
Acting Chief Trade Negotiator, Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN), Mr Victor Liman, noted that access to finance was still a major challenge hindering private sector businesses.
According to Liman, the cost of money was too high for most MSMEs who constitute about 50 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Nigerian economy.
Liman also called for the need to reform some trade policies that had acted as barriers to international trade.
He noted that three critical factors which are effective and seamless implementation, compliance and rigorous enforcement would make or mar the AfCFTA.
“We are looking to increase intra- African trade from the abysmal numbers ranging between 15 and 17 per cent to 35 or 50 per cent, which will provide a market size of about 600 million people.
“There are some factors that will act as enablers for the seamless implementation of the trade agreement in Nigeria.
“Special funding interventions for MSMEs with lower interest rates and longer tenure is critical as an enabler of the trade.
“We need to review of some laws regulations and policies which have become moribund overtime.
“Authorities and regulatory agencies must understand their roles and act accordingly,” he said.
In his remarks, Mr Wamkele Mene, Secretary General, AfCFTA Secretariat, stressed the need to engage private sector operators as the sector constituted 90 per cent of employed population and 80 per cent total production in the continent.
Mene also noted that MSMEs were the real traders, real investors and the real job creators, responsible for moving goods and services across borders.
“In Africa, the private sector accounts for 80 per cent of the total production activities, furthermore, 90 per cent of the firms with the African private sector are MSME.
“To successfully implement the trade agreement, all member states must actively engage with the private sector, allow them share their experiences and also find solution to challenges that will hinder business activities.
“Nigeria has a lot to benefit in areas of services, market expansion and investment in the trade pact and so must prioritise implementation of policies that would ensure job creation for sustainable development,” he said.
Meanwhile, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment, said the pact presented opportunities for Nigerian businesses to expand operations.
Adebayo, represented by Secretary, National Committee on AfCFTA, Mr Francis Anatogu, said that the pact would additionally expand market access that would catalyse local production which supports the nation’s industrialisation drive.
Adebayo said the federal government was working relentlessly to mitigate the challenges of the trade deal.
“There is the need to build a strong national brand to set Nigeria aside from other African countries.
“Nigeria is committed to the full implementation of the agreement as we are also implementing programmes to aggregate SMEs for export trade,” he said.
President, LCCI, Mrs Toki Mabogunje, said it had become necessary to deliberate on the appropriate policies to ensure aspeedy and effective implementation of the agreement across countries of the continent.
According to her, a well-implemented AfCFTA would stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and facilitate the economic diversification of African economies.
The LCCI President lauding the takeoff of the agreement, noted that critical parts of the agreement were yet to be finalised.
Mabogunje said several key issues including schedules of tariff concessions, schedules of service commitment, rules of origin, investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights had not been concluded.
“There is still lack of clarity on the type of value addition that must occur within an AfCFTA State party for a product to benefit from tariff reduction.
“A great deal of sensitisation and enlightenment still needs to be done on the implementation modalities, and this forms the basis for putting this event together,” she said.