“Nigeria Must Position To Get Optimum Benefit from African Free Trade Agreement” – Ecobank

(L-R): Prof. Jonathan Aremu, Covenant University; Desmond Guobada, chairman AfCFTA Technical Working Group, Presidential Committee and Patrick Akinwuntan, CEO Ecobank Nigeria during the 25th Nigerian Economic Summit with the theme "Nigeria 2050: Shifting Gears" in Abuja.

“Nigeria Must Position To Get Optimum Benefit from African Free Trade Agreement” – Ecobank 

ABOLAJI RUKAYAT AFOLASHADE (Lagos)

Sponsored by: H&H

Ecobank has advocated that Nigeria takes the lead and positions itself to get optimum benefits from the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

According to the bank, Nigeria undoubtedly has the largest and most vigorous economy in Africa and therefore must position itself to lead in the continent with a population of about 1.2 billion people that is projected to double by 2050, making it one of the largest free trade area the world.

The Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan who spoke at the 25th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, highlighted the need for Nigeria to take the lead on the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement.

Akinwuntan, who was at the panel session titled “AfCFTA: “Capitalizing on Opportunity”, said there was the urgent need to fix certain infrastructures within the Nigerian economy to allow for a competitive operation and to bring about ease of trade. He noted that infrastructures that will aid timeliness in carrying out business activities, such as fixing of the present transportation system, fixing of the current electricity issues and ease of import and export activities within our ports and borders need urgent attention.

In his words, “One of the clear lessons to note for us to compete effectively, and to excel in the advantages that the AfCFTA agreement offers, is that we have to act at gGlobal standards and project Africa as one market. Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, and as such we need to step up, by fixing all the hindrances to the AfCFTA agreement within our economy.” 

Further, he said some smaller countries are already positioning themselves for the opportunities that abound in the free trade agreement, and so Nigeria must be ready.

For the financial institutions, he noted that there was the need for an effective African payments system, as this will greatly impact the agreement.  “At Ecobank we have a pan-African payment system that works across 33 African countries and this will help in creating seamless trade transactions once the AfCFTA agreement is implemented. The Ecobank app is a unified app that caters to Africa’s diversity in language and currencies, this will further contribute to the advantages of the AfCFTA agreement.” He stated.

Also speaking on the panel session was is Assistant Chief Trade Negotiator, AfCFTA/ECOWAS, from the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN), Demitta Gyang Chinwude, who emphasized the need for everyone to understand the laws of the AfCFTA.  

According to her, “the first things businesses need to know are the laws guiding the AfCFTA agreement, they need to know their rights and equip themselves adequately to operate within these laws. All businesses, must have an AfCFTA desk officer, who will act as a liaison officer and is equipped with the right information for your business.” 

Chinwude said the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN,) is taking the lead by breaking down the laws of the AfCFTA into leaflets that will be easy to understand.

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), a public-private dialogue in Nigeria. This year’s summit which held on the 7th and 8th of October 2019 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, had Ecobank as a major partner and the summit focused on three key pillars – economic growth, competitiveness, and inclusive development.

Since its inception, NESG has promoted its activities around six fundamental principles of the economy. It includes a commitment to a Free Market Economy, encouragement of Private Sector Investments, Creation of an Enabling Environment, Good Governance in the National Interest, Rule-Based Economy and the Establishment of Economic Foundation for Democracy.

Ecobank is a pan-African banking conglomerate, with banking operations in 36 African countries.

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