By Emmanuella Anokam
The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) has called for increased funds and productivity for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to benefit from African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
NANTS President, Mr Ken Ukaoha, made the call on Thursday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on July 7, at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in Niamey, Niger Republic signed the agreement establishing the AfCFTA.
Ukaoha said that for Nigeria to benefit from the largesse and potential of the AfCFTA agreement, the Federal Government should ensure a diversified economy by directing incentives to reactivate the MSMEs for increased productivity.
““The financial sector needs to buckle up; the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other commercial banks need to wake up to the reality facing Nigeria in the agreement and channel more funds to MSMEs for credit availability.”
He explained that Prisident Muhammadu Buhari hesitated in signing the AfCFTA agreement because he wanted to carry everybody along, hence he ordered for consultation of all the stakeholders.
According to him, the president set up a steering committee that looked at the potential impacts and readiness of Nigeria to sign and participate in the agreement.
“”After everything, the committee, which comprised all stakeholders including labour sector, manufacturers and chamber of commerce, MSMEs and different government agencies concluded that Nigeria had to sign the agreement.
“”This is to enable Nigeria to join in the enlarged market which has over N1.2 billion market share.
““We need to understand that there is no trade agreement that comes on a platter of gold, for every country represented therein, the agreement must come with shocks, cost, and benefits as well, he added.
He said that it could cost the country some part of the economy, investment in road, rail and other trade infrastructure including communications.
The expert said that it would also come with the benefit of a large market and eye opener because producers and marketers would be challenged due to new market entries.
“”The economy over all will experience some shocks to fine tune some sectors in order to increase productivity.
“We are not looking only at trade in goods; we are also looking at trade in services where Nigeria has advantage.
“”We also have to understand that our basket of commodity to export is not too rich, they need to be attractive, surplus and packaged well,” he said.
According to him, the agreement requires that 90 per cent of our market will be liberalised, if that happens the import duties which is highly placed in the country will be reduced.
The NANTS president explained that apart from oil, the second largest revenue base in the country was import duties adding: “if import duties would be reduced courtesy of AfCFTA there must be shocks somewhere”.
“How do we ensure that these shocks are not that visible to shake our economy to the point that we will be thinking of recession again,” he queried.
He then urged relevent agencies in the economy, including the manufacturers to collaborate for research and development to imbibe innovations and creativity for added value because of the impending competitions. (NAN)