Signing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement will be an economic game-changer for Nigeria, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Mr Babatunde Ruwase has said.
The AfCFTA, signed in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, last year, is a trade agreement between 49 African Union (AU) member states (excluding Nigeria), with the goal of creating a single market followed by free movement and a single-currency union.
While some have expressed concerns over sustainability of investments should Nigeria sign it, Ruwase was of the view that the country stands to benefit from continental economic integration.
He spoke during the 2019 Founders Day Lecture of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), with the theme: Inclusivity and the transformational potentials of the AfCFTA for African countries.
Ruwase, who chaired the event, said: “The reality is that there is a great deal of value in economic integration, but as a country, we need to position ourselves well to take advantage of the opportunities it offers.
“The AfCFTA is an age-long dream of the continent with regards to the promotion of trade and investment among African countries.
“As a country, our decision on the AfCFTA could be a game-changer for Nigerian economy if we do the right thing at the right time.”
The guest lecturer, Adjunct Professor at the Centre of Comparative Law in Africa, University of Cape Town, South Africa, Prof Faizel Ismail, said AfCFTA has the prospect of catalysing the process of transformative industrial development, cross-border investment, democracy and governance in Africa.
He, however, advocated for fairer outcomes of the AfCFTA and a more balanced and mutually beneficial integration process.
“African governments should ensure that their stakeholders: business (both big and small), trade unions and civil society NGOs are included in the national consultation process and, provide their negotiators with clear mandates for negotiations.
“African countries need to build effective institutions that are inclusive and enable the fullest participation of stakeholders in the negotiating process.
“This will improve both the quality and the sustainability of the AfCFTA agreements,” he said.
NIALS Director-General Prof Adedeji Adekunle said the yearly Founders Day Lecture provides a forum for intellectual discussions on legal and related issues.
“We use it to take stock of how faithful we have been to the mandate of the institute and the dreams of those who founded it.
“The topic is one that is on the front burner. Even as we’re gathered here, CEOs from Africa are gathered in Kigali talking about what AfCFTA holds for them.