By Emmanuel Nduka
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has affirmed that the success of the initiative to create the biggest free trade area in the world, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), can only be achieved through active collaboration of both the public and private sectors.
He made this affirmation while addressing the opening ceremony of the Intra-African Trade Fair 2021, in Durban, South Africa on Monday.
Buhari canvassed support for the implementation of the free trade initiative, listing several benefits to the continent, including doubling trade in 10 years and reducing over-reliance on imports.
He also expressed concern that most of Africa’s existing challenges, whether security, economy, or corruption, can be traced to the inability over the years to domesticate the production of most basic requirements and provide jobs to her teeming and dynamic youth population.
‘‘Under the African Continental Free Trade Area, we can double our intra-African trade by 2030, reduce our reliance on imports and therefore create more jobs within the continent.
‘‘We cannot achieve this goal by talking alone. The implementation will be a difficult journey. But all challenges are surmountable if both the public and private sectors collaborate.
‘‘On the public sector side, Governments must support local entrepreneurs to build scale and therefore improve productivity.
‘‘This means providing incentives to encourage our businesses to formalise and comply with laid down regulations,’’ Buhari said.
He reminded that ‘‘Free trade must also be fair and fairness can only be achieved when there is full compliance with regulations, especially that relating to rules of origin. The AfCFTA is for “made-in-Africa” products and services.
‘‘Africa must be a marketplace where no country is left behind. As we implement, we must ensure that we create jobs and enhance revenues for all parties. We must leverage on one another’s strengths to succeed.’’