AfCFTA Must Be Domesticated For Nigeria To Reap Trade Benefits – Anatogu

Soonest Nathaniel  
Updated November 9, 2021


The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters and Secretary of the National Action Committee on AfCFTA, Francis Anatogu, says the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will help to deepen economic integration in the continent.

Anatogu also says that AfCFTA’s goals will also improve and expand intra-Africa trade, enable rule-based engagement for facilitating dispute resolution and addressing injurious trade practices.

He made this known on Monday at a leadership stakeholders’ consultation on the theme ‘Defining the Trade in Service Strategy for AfCFTA’.

Mr Anatogu said the agreement will also serve as the foundation for the establishment of a continental Customs Union.

He expressed optimism that if effectively implemented, the AfCFTA will result in the elimination of tariffs on 90 per cent of tariff lines, adding that product-specific rules of origin will help to grow African content.

Anatogu also stated that the pact would assist in the harmonisation of policies, regulations and standards, as well as lead to customs co-operation and mutual administrative assistance.

The AfCTA, according to him will double intra-Africa trade flows, currently at 15 per cent as well as double Africa’s share of world trade from three per cent to six per cent over the next 10 years.

In a similar vein, Professor John Aremu said at the forum that while it is right for Nigeria to ratify the agreement, the constitution provides that such treaties entered into can only become beneficial to the nation if it has a place inside the Nigerian law to guarantee enforceability.

Aremu, who is a Professor of International Economic Relations at Covenant University, urged stakeholders to facilitate the domestication of AfCFTA as enshrined in the constitution, in order to ensure utmost benefits accrues to Nigeria.

The academic who doubles as a consultant of ECOWAS Common Investment Market, stated this during his presentation titled “Conceptual Issues in Africa Integration Emergence of AfCFTA, and It’s Protocol”.

He said, “If AfCFTA cannot be domesticated into the national law, it cannot be deployed in defense of cases involving their violations before courts of law in the country, neither can they be used for advocacy of rights within the country.

“Further to this, violators of AfCFTA provisions, whether they be institutions, companies or individuals cannot be held accountable, since the AfCFTA treaty has not been domesticated in the country”.

This he said can be supported by section 12(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, about Implementation of treaties which states that “no treaty between the federation and another country shall have the force of the law except to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly”.

Aremu further said failure or lateness for Nigeria to domesticate AfCFTA will cause unreasonable hardship on other AU member states that intend to have commercial relationships with the country under the continental economic integration.

This he said will further discourage reading and affect the inflow of investments into Nigeria and also stunt the growth of the law in the country.

He also advocated the need for an upgrade of the overall quality of the nation’s physical infrastructure like roads, rail, port facilities, telecommunications, which are prerequisites to profitable intra-African trade

The professor also called for the use of online information portal, single windows, digital documentation, Pan African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), electronic Certificates and signatures and automated processing of trade declaration which would help simplify, streamline and expedite trade-related procedures at the borders.

For Nigeria to fully benefit from AfCFTA, Professor Aremu said Nigeria must reduce infrastructural deficit by building on ongoing efforts and also reduce other critical NBTs such as customs and other administrative requirements that directly affect the capacity of economies to trade merchandise within and outside their borders.

Other suggestions from Professor Aremu include improving trade facilitation commitments of the country as regards categories A, B, and C with WTO/TFA as a priority area for reforms while also ensuring a strong institutional and governance framework in the implementation of AfCFTA.

On commencement of AfCFTA, the Don said beyond boosting Intra-Africa trade, the larger market offered by AfCFTA are expected to trigger investment, leading to high productivity and addition to the continent’s value chain, provide more and better jobs and further enlarge the continental market.

Additionally, he said despite the high level of political momentum around AfCFTA, the ultimate success depends on African states not merely ratifying the treaty but repositioning themselves towards complying with demands in the AfCFTA.

He said while other continents have increased intra- trade among them, Africa still lags behind in trading within itself.

“Intra-Africa trade is about 12%, compared to North America Free Trade Area (NAFTA) of 40% and 63% between economies of Western Europe and 30% for ASEAN.

“There can never be any good reason why it is easier for us to trade with Asia, Europe and America, rather than with fellow Africans” Professor Aremu quoted former Ghanaian President, John Mahama as saying.

The academic said African countries can improve intra-trade among themselves by adopting trade diversion, which entails abandoning the lowest cost producer like China and importing the same product from a member of the union.

Prof. Aremu also said the policy of trade creation where the country with comparative advantage is allowed to produce a particular product while others patronize it can be employed.

“By bringing down the barriers to trade between Nigeria and Egypt, the imports from Egypt will become cheaper than the ones produced by companies within Nigeria and those imported from China, since import duties remain on China, thereby creating more trade from Egypt,” he narrated.

Prof Aremu lamented over Africa’s contribution to global trade volume and blamed the lack of proper renegotiation of global agreements to integrate the continent and increase her participation in the global trade.

According to him, “Africa accounts for about 3% of the global trade despite Doha Development Agenda (DDA) of the WTO, AGOA of USA and ECAs of EU; all of which have not been negotiated to enable Africa’s successful integration into the global economy despite promises”.

Speaking further on the African situation, he said: “Africa accounts for just 2.4% of global GDP; has approximately 30% of the earth’s remaining mineral resources; largest reserve of precious metals, over 40% of gold reserves, over 60% of cobalt and 90% of platinum reserves, yet Africa is the world’s poorest and underdeveloped”.