The Federal Government in collaboration with Pan-African Manufacturers Association (PAMA) has announced plans to boost intra-Africa trade currently at 13 per cent, noting that with African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in full force, African governments must invest heavily in large-scale innovations and technology that would drive economic success and trade on the continent.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, at the Lighting of the Africa Torch Programme, explained that African governments must take the lead in risk-taking in terms of investing in ensuring a conducive environment for investments to thrive in its bid to attract private sector investments into the continent.
He commended the President, African Business Council, Dr Amany Asfour, for their work, which led to the conceptualisation of the Lighting of the Africa Trade Torch, pointing out that it is most appropriate to organize such a tribute that celebrates the commencement of African economic and social transformation, which the AfCFTA represents.
He said with Africa’s rising middle class and thus greater spending power, there is no greater time to drive trade and private sector productivity on the continent than now.
“I strongly believe that there can be no AfCFTA without the full participation of the private sector, as the key driver of economies within the continent and beyond. Thus, the private sector has the sole power to operationalize the agreement,” he stressed.
He however stated that the effects of the AfCFTA on economic and social transformation depends on the degree to which the private sector can seize the opportunities the agreement provides, that is, make African economies more competitive and enable development and elevation of regional value chains with a focus on SMEs.
Citing a report by PwC, He said SMEs in Nigeria contribute about 48 per cent of national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which has been consistent in the last five years and also account for about 96 per cent of businesses and 84 per cent of employment opportunities within the country.
“Another survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), showed that the Nigerian SME sector is strategically positioned to absorb up to 80 per cent of jobs, improve per capita income, increase value addition to raw material supply, improve export earnings and enhance capacity utilisation in certain key industries,” he added.
He called on the Nigerian private sector to fully key into the AfCFTA and also lend their support to the work that is being done by the African Business Council.
He implored different governments to assume the important role of promoting trade development, stressing that for the private sector to succeed, there is an urgent need for entrepreneurial states with governments that would assume regulatory, coordinating and catalytic roles.
He noted that with governments at the driver’s seat and the private sector as the engines, AfCFTA can set Africa on the path towards economic and social transformation, build an Africa of the 21st Century that would take its rightful place in global value chains and thus create “the Africa We Want”.
Also speaking, the Interim Chairman, Pan-African Manufacturers Association (PAMA), Mansur Ahmed, said the event is a testament to the continent’s potential and collective determination to promote and trigger engagement in Intra-Africa trade and cross-border value chains.
He said the association aims to encourage cooperation between African manufacturers such that there can be a market transformation in order to grow SMEs and subsequently create value chains to achieve Africa’s industrialisation agenda.
“This Association shall serve as a central continental body that would engage the African Union and other continental bodies on behalf of African manufacturers on matters concerning the growth and development of their industry,” he assured.
He noted that African manufacturers can rest assured that with PAMA, there would be an increase in intra-Africa trade through the creation of competitive and comparative advantages for different markets.
“Furthermore, I would like to reassure the African Business Council of PAMA’s commitment to advancing and prospering the efforts of the AfCFTA in order to build high-quality continental value chains.
“I strongly believe that our challenge is to boost greater cooperation between manufacturers and countries, and to constantly remind African manufacturers that they can and should think bigger and bolder,” he stressed.
He said MAN is looking towards an era where African products will be on every shelf, in every supermarket and market, consumed in every household from Cairo to Cape, from Lagos to Mombasa and from Dakar to Dar es Salam.
“Furthermore, I believe that African manufacturers deserve to be seen and heard, and it is our duty to change the view that Africa is a continent of consumers and not producers,” he added.