Let’s make AfCFTA work, President Buhari tells African leaders

President Muhammadu Buhari in Durban, South Africa, yesterday implored other African leaders to ensure that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) benefits all member countries.

This, he said, is achievable by ensuring active collaboration between the public and private sectors.

The Nigerian leader told attendees of the 2nd Intra-African Trade Fair 2021 that his delegation was attending the event “with full force” to maximize its benefit.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the event, the President said: “ Let me assure you that Nigeria has come to Durban in force to actively participate in this very important trade fair and take full advantage of all the opportunities it offers.

“We have streamlined the country’s participation under one roof to give you access to all the information you need. “

A statement by presidential spokesman Garba Shehu noted that President Buhari’s expectations of a good performance of Nigerian companies at the Durban fair depend on the results of the last edition in Cairo, Egypt, during which they secured deals worth more than $ 3.3 billion.

According to Shehu, current records show that intra-African trade only accounts for 15 percent of their transactions.

He said the president expressed his optimism that the creation of the world’s largest free trade area, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), will work, especially with the active collaboration of sectors. public and private.

Buhari requested support for the implementation of the free trade initiative, listing several benefits for the continent, including doubling trade in 10 years and reducing overreliance on imports.

The Nigerian leader expressed concern that most of Africa’s current challenges, whether security, economic or corruption, can be attributed to the inability over the years to domesticate the production of most basic needs and provide employment for its young and vibrant population.

Buhari said, “As part of the African Continental Free Trade Area, we can double our intra-African trade by 2030, reduce our dependence on imports and therefore create more jobs on the continent.

“We cannot achieve this by speaking alone. Implementation will be a difficult journey. But all challenges are surmountable if the public and private sectors work together.

On the public sector side, governments need to help local entrepreneurs scale up and therefore improve productivity.

“It means providing incentives to encourage our businesses to formalize and comply with established regulations,” he said.

Regarding the rules of engagement of the free trade initiative, President Buhari reminded other heads of state and participants of the fair:

Free trade must also be fair and fairness can only be achieved when there is full compliance with regulations, especially those relating to rules of origin.

The AfCFTA is intended for ‘made in Africa’ products and services. Africa must be a market where no country is left behind. When implementing, we need to ensure that there are jobs and increased incomes for all parties. We must build on each other’s strengths to be successful.

President Buhari also called on African companies to integrate into existing regional value chains or build new ones, either to expand their operations into higher value-added segments of their industries or to meet the demands of rules of origin of the area.

He said he was delighted that the Intra-African Trade Fair was uniquely placed to help in these areas.

The president pointed out that the Nigerian economy under his administration had undergone a reengineering.

As many of you know, over the past five years Nigeria has made significant strides towards diversifying its economy from a country dependent on oil revenues to a nation with diverse income sources.

“We have been able to achieve this by putting in place fiscal, monetary and trade policies that support investments and investors in key sectors such as agriculture, mining, telecommunications and the digital economy, banking and financial services. , tourism and manufacturing, ”he said. noted.

While declaring that Nigeria is open for business, the president underlined that progress is being made in the reforms of key institutions, the fight against corruption as well as the ease of doing business in the country.

He commended the African Union Commission, the AfCFTA Secretariat and the African Import-Export Bank for their dedication and tireless efforts to make the trade zone a reality.

Today is a big day for Africa as we begin our collaborative journey to collective economic prosperity across the African Continental Free Trade Area. I can’t wait to see more African products made in Africa using African resources.

“I also congratulate the people of Durban for hosting this year’s Intra-African Trade Fair. I sincerely hope that we will see important agreements between African companies at this meeting.

“Through these gatherings, we will lay a solid foundation for future business-to-business, business-to-government, and government-to-government cooperation,” Buhari said.

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