The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL), Seni Adio, SAN at the recent Africa Trade Forum expressed optimism that the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) will be signed in the near future.
At the event, which held from November 2-3, 2018 in Lagos, Mr. Adio who was recently appointed as a member of the Presidential Committee for Impact and Readiness Assessment of the AfCFTA, stated that he was confident that the Committee whose report is due in a few weeks will make a compelling case for the signing of the AfCFTA.
He urged legal practitioners to keenly pay attention to the ongoing reforms, as the AFCFTA is expected to open a new vista of opportunities not just for practitioners in the area of International Trade Law, but for all lawyers.
Also speaking at the forum, Dr. Joy Kategekwa, Head, Regional Office for Africa, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), stated that in order to derive the most effective and desired impacts from the implementation of the AFCFTA, and Intra-Africa Trade generally, stakeholders must also create conducive environments in member states to enhance transformational domestic investments, as well as the inflow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). She concluded that, “stakeholders need to be entrepreneurial, bold, and scale-up.”
Dr. Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist/Director, Research and International Cooperation, African Export Import Bank (Afriexim), was emphatic about the Bank’s support of the AfCFTA, noting that through it, the AU has given purpose to young Africans who aspire to greatness, as its implementation will deal with one of the continent’s biggest challenges – Trade Financing.
He spoke passionately, thus: “the Afriexim Bank greatly believes in the AfCFTA. We believe that it is the most important thing happening in Africa. It is no longer theoretical or hypothetical. It is now real,” Fofack said. Equally encouraging, he stated that Afriexim had developed a strategy to work with young African entrepreneurs to develop bankable projects around the continent.
Discussing some of the challenges and gaps in trade financing across Africa, His Excellency, Ambassador Albert Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, spoke about “Agenda 2063”.
His Excellency stated that Agenda 2063 is a Pan-African Socio-Economic Development Plan, and the implementation of the AfCFTA is key to achieving the objectives of the Plan.
The 2018 Africa Trade Forum was hosted by the Nigeria Government through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and co-organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), The Rockefeller Foundation, and the African Union Commission (AUC).
The Forum brought together key stakeholders across the continent and, indeed, globally including international trade experts, business leaders, entrepreneurs, academia, and development partners to discuss the path towards implementing the AfCFTA.
The AfCFTA was signed in March 2018 by 44 African countries and, thereafter, 5 other countries have signed, comprising a total of 49 countries. Upon implementation, it will become one of the world’s largest trading blocs. It is also the broadest trade agreement signed since the World Trade Organization (WTO) was established, bringing together 1.3 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) exceeding $2 trillion in a single market. The agreement aims to provide improved competition, capacity and infrastructure development, and lower business costs.
The Presidential Committee on the AfCFTA is, amongst other things, charged with identifying short, medium and long-term measures to prepare Nigerian businesses for the establishment of the AfCFTA trading bloc; and to review the trade remedies protocols to safeguard the Nigerian economy from predatory and other unfair trade practices.
Following the NBA-SBL’s 12th Annual Business Law Conference in June 2018, where it provided a platform for stakeholders’ consultations on endorsing the signing of the AfCFTA, the Section has been in regular consultations and collaborations with the Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN) and other relevant stakeholders towards the signing and implementation of the AfCFTA.
Amongst other recommendations, the 12th Annual Business Law Conference advised that African Bar Associations and business law firms should support a Pan-African single market in order to take advantage of the inherent benefits of free trade. And, as a corollary, African law firms also need to develop scale and enhance expertise to maximize the opportunities that the inevitable “disruption” that a single market will create.
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