Wednesday, September 4, 2019

AfCFTA Implementation Strategies-Part-8: The Cooperation

This is the eight in the series of ten parts articles on the AfCFTA implementation Strategies. This edition is focused on Cooperation. One of the factors that has hindered the growth of exportation in Nigeria and consequently militating against the utilisation of free trade agreement signed within the ECOWAS region is lack of cooperation among the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) that are involved directly or indirectly with exportation of goods out of the country. This was the reason why I recommended in the part one of these series of articles that, the members of the implementation committee should be drawn from various agencies of government that are rendering one service or the other to exporters. 

For the sake of clarity, the agencies of government that must work together for the successful implementation of the AfCFTA for the benefits of Nigerians should include but not limited to the following: Nigeria Export promotion Council (NEPC), Nigeria Custom Service (NCS), Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), Small and Medium Scale Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Federal Produce Inspection Service (FPIS) Nigeria Agricultural Quarantines Service (NAQS), Federal Ministry of Transportation, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nexim Bank and the Nigeria Office of Trade Negotiation (NOTN). 

These agencies are critical to the successful implementation of AfCFTA because they are involve in rendering support services in the area of export promotion, documentation and clearance of goods for export, quality assurance of foods, drugs and manufactured goods, processing of certificate of origin, administration of subsidies and export incentives, issuance of export guidelines and documentations, championing the course for the ease of doing business in Nigeria, handling and shipment of goods from the ports and terminals, administration of the application form for exportation, provision of cheap source of funding for manufacturing and exportation. All these are critical elements in the export value chain. If any of these MDAs weakens the a link in the chain, it reduce further the already low competitiveness of the Nigerian exporters.

The lack of cooperation among the agencies of government has manifested in many ways in the past. This had made all the efforts of the MDA driving any initiative to solve a problem in the export sector to proof abortive. For example, the CBN wanted to ensure that all goods leaving the country go out through the legal means of NXP documentation. This is to ensure that the proceeds of the exported items are repatriated to grow nation's foreign reserve. However, the NCS does not seem to be interested in this policy of CBN because data obtained from international organisation shows that goods are leaving Nigeria via the sea without documentation and this could only have been possible because the NCS allowed it. Another example is seen in the regulation of NAQS that expects that any commodity leaving Nigeria requires inspection and issuance of phytosanitary certificates but these commodities are leaving the country without this certificate and sometimes using fake NAQS certificate and these goods are are approved to be loaded on the vessel and allowed for shipment.

A more recent example that I personally witnessed is a situation where NEPC is organising solo exhibition in Cote D’Ivoire and already agreed with the Nigerian Embassy in that country, the kind of support that is required from them. However, it is sad to note that the Nigerian Embassy In Cote D’Ivoire withdrew from being part of the programme few days before the event because of personal issues relating to funds with the consulatnt on ground and thereby causing delay in clearing the goods to be used for the exhibition. They also wrote the private and government agencies in Cote D’Ivoire that they are no more part of the event which led to the low turn out of visitors at the event. There are so many other examples that shows rivalry and battle of supremacy among the government agencies which negatively affects the businesses they are supposed to serve.

In order to foster the required cooperation among the various government agencies and also, as a matter of commitment to AfCFTA on the part of the government, I will like to recommend that the president should nominate a minister to be the AfCFTA Champion. The AfCFTA Champion should naturally be the Minister of Industry Trade & Investment or as the president may deemed fit. He should be mandated to work with all the head of other ministries, departments and agencies that are involved in exportation to nominate a Director who will be the AfCFTA Driver in these MDAs. The minister who is the AfCFTA Champion together with the AfCFTA Driver at the MDAs should be part of the AfCFTA implementation committee. This is to ensure that all the plans of the committee are adequately communicated to the MDAs that are responsible for the implementation.

It is also very important for the implementation committee to clearly define the job description of the AfCFTA Drivers in all relevant MDAs and also work with the head of service to put in place a punitive measure that will ensure that any AfCFTA Driver that is not living up to expectations is disciplined and also replaced where necessary.

Finally, I will like to say that, if we want to enjoy all the benefits embedded in the AfCFTA, then we have to do the work. This is because, this free trade agreement will not work for any country that is not ready to do the work. 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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