Monday, August 12, 2019

AfCFTA Implementation Strategies-Part-5: The Communications

This is the fifth in the series of Articles on AfCFTA implementation strategies and this edition will be focused on proffering solutions to the challenges that have plagued the implementation of FTAs around the world particularly in the West African region. I strongly believed that, if some of these suggestions can be put into consideration in the formulation of the AfCFTA implementation strategies, we will be able overcome some of the challenges that ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) and other FTAs have been experiencing around the world. This is the first in the series of recommendations that I will be making to the implementation committee and this will centre around the issue of Communications.

The successful implementation of any FTA like AfCFTA is hinged on the man that is carrying the message, the means that is available to funds the communications of the message, the medium through which the message is being communicated and the content of the message of the AfCFTA.  There are so many discussions on how best to implement the AfCFTA  and make it a success but not much is said about the issue of communication despite the fact that many research work done FTAs have shown that this constitutes a major reason why many FTAs have failed.

To put the challenge of communication into perspective, a recent research conducted among SME manufacturers in Lagos showed that 67% of the respondents are aware of ETLS but only 37.5% understands the details of the scheme. This therefore could help one to explain the reason why only 4% of the respondents had applied to the National Approval Committee (NAC) domiciled in the ministry of foreign affairs to register products under the ETLS scheme. This corroborated the research by Deloitte on ETLS in 2017, which states that the issue of inadequate information about the ETLS and hence the low awareness of the details of the scheme among the businesses in West Africa stands as a major impediment to the full utilisation of the scheme among the business communities in the ECOWAS member states. When asked about how they got to know about the ETLS, the responses received from respondents showed that the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), a body saddled with the responsibility of promoting non-oil export and general seminars organized by individual companies and those organized private sector are their major sources of information about the ETLS.

The information about AfCFTA must be communicated clearly and continuously to the business community across Nigeria. This must be done for such a long time until the awareness of AfCFTA created in the consciousness of an average businessman in Nigeria gets to the level of awareness of major candidates of the political parties which was seen in during political campaigns. This simply means there must be a deliberate plan to communicate the gospel of the AfCFTA through all the communication channels available and sustain the tempo for a very long time. This can be done by the AfCFTA implementation committee in conjunction with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, National Association of Chamber and Industry Mines and Agricultural (NACCIMA) and the organized private sectors. The communication of this message should follow the AIDA model of advertising. That means the messages going out should not just create the Awareness, it should continue enough to generate Interest in business people and this should be sustained in order to get the business people to Desire it, and after this, the propagation of the message should continued until it generates Actions, that is the participation of the Nigerian businesses in AfCFTA.

The messages to be communicated about AfCFTA to the business community should should be very comprehensive and this should include but not limited the following: 
Programme- this message of AfCFTA should state the details of the agreement like the rules of origin, protocol on trade in goods, protocol on trade in services and the dispute resolution. This is to let them have a comprehensive overview of the agreement 
Profits- the AfCFTA messages to be communicated to the business communities should clearly state the benefits of the agreement to the Nigerian people, Nigerian businesses and Nigerian economy in general. This is to create the necessary motivation in the businessmen 
Policies- the message should also convey the policies that the government is putting in place to help the Nigerian businesses to be able to participate in the AfCFTA. This is to let the business community see the commitment of the government to support them
Procedure- in order to benefit from the AfCFTA there will be laid down step by step procedures. This should communicated to be business community in form of info-graph and distributed in pamphlets at any AfCFTA event. This is to let the business community know exactly the step by step process of how to get started 
Paperwork- the paperwork is a major challenge for many SMEs under the ETLS. The documentation required should be communicated to the business people together with people who can help them do it. This is to ensure that having created the awareness, the people are not discouraged by the challenges of the documentation requirements
Product- In order to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in the pursuit of AfCFTA by the exporters, the implementation committee should also make available after a thorough research, the list of Nigerian products with potential within the African continent 
Purchasers- it is not enough to make Information available about product with potentials in African market but also making available, the list of countries that buy and if possible the companies that buy such products in the various countries become very important 
Promotion- there is the need for promotion of Nigeria products in the various export markets in Africa. This should be parts of the implementation plan of the AfCFTA committee and it should be done through solo exhibition in the target market. This promotional programmes should be well publicized and financial support should be made available in order to get the Nigerian businesses to participate 
Payment- the payment information here has to do with making information available on funding for procurement and processing in order pay local suppliers and workers respectively. It also involves making information available on payment facilitation so as to ensure that they get paid after shipment 
People- The men to communicate these messages is a critical aspect of AfCFTA communication plan. He has to be trained and readily available online and offline. Such people should have an office in different states of the federation and the information about how to reach them for enquires should be made available to the public.

Finally, I will like reiterate the fact that the challenge of effectively communicating all the information about FTAs have been the major impediment and clog in the wheel of progress in different parts of the world. It is my hope that the implementation committee of the government will adopt some of the recommendations that are been prescribed in this article in order to make the implementation of the AfCFTA create the necessary jobs that will lift out of penury, the tens of millions of Nigeria that are currently living below the poverty line

For the love of Nigeria, Africa and Mankind.
Bamidele Ayemibo (
Lead Consultant at 3T Impex Trade Academy

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