The Executive Director of the AfCFTA Policy Network, Louis Yaw Afful, has expressed extreme concern over the non-ratification of Nigeria and some North African countries to the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement and how that would stifle the vision of having one continental market.
“We are expecting that all the major players, Nigeria and other big economies satisfy that condition. The Arab Maghreb for example contribute about 50% of the budget of the AU but none of them have ratified at all, and that is a serious concern,” he said.
He made this assertion, as a panellist on the Eye on Port programme, prior to the handing over of the AfCFTA Secretariat by the President of the Republic of Ghana, to the African Union Commission.
He opined that, perhaps with the case of Nigeria, the cohesion expected from Policy makers and players in the private sector, did not happen, making it difficult for Nigeria to buy into the Continental Free Trade Agreement from the early stages.
Ziad Hamoui, the National President of the Borderless Alliance, who participated in the discussion, elaborated on the reasons for Nigeria’s non-conformance, citing the inadequate consultation with the private sector as key.
“It is a question of actually discussing and engaging all the people that matter such as the decision makers, the representatives of civil society, private enterprises, trade unions, the SMEs, organized private associations, and the numbers of economic operators for success,” he explained.
Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, opined that a successful single market in Africa cannot be experienced without the participation of Nigeria, hence he called for all possible interventions to be taken up to bring Nigeria on board.
“I can’t foresee a single Africa market without Nigeria because Nigeria constitutes the bigger portion of that single market so steps needs to be taken to get Nigeria on board,” he adviced.
He continued to empathize with Nigeria’s worry over how they would benefit from the trade initiative.
“I understand Nigeria. It’s a similar situation with China. They really built their capacity before joining the WTO. They made sure they were up to speed before joining because they believe they would definitely be the target for almost every country.”
But, Louis Yaw Afful, cautioned the consequences of Nigeria taking an over-protectionist route.
“In free trade, it is not about how big your market is. It is more about what you have negotiated and you should look at factorial performance of your economy, and you would realise that if you are not careful, what you think you are running away from, which is competition…you cannot be over protectionist for a long time,” he warned.
The panellists in turns, debated on the conflicts arising from the GPIC Law that does not allow foreigners to engage in retail business in Ghana, vis-a-vis that of the laws of ECOWAS.
“I know there is a reason to grief for some of these traders and I know that the freedom of establishment and the freedom of abode, freedom of movement, are embedded into the ECOWAS treaty, but then, we get into the grey area because the various countries say that their countries’ regulations have to be respected by whichever traders which are trading in their domain. So, in Ghana Nigerians say that we are supposed to be here, and the restrictions in Ghana are so high. This is something I give them credit for,” Ziad Hamoui, Borderless Alliance argued.
He added However, that similar situations are even being faced in Nigeria where some foreigners are also being restricted from doing some businesses.
He said that the situation in Ghana is receiving more attention, due to the Nigerians in Ghana vociferously voicing out their plight.
Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, ICC Ghana, added, “I have seen a draft of ECOWAS investment policy, and the same way we need an ECOWAS trade policy that should be harmonised. Not just that, but our standards. Because if you want to produce something, it should meet an acceptable standard.”
Ghanaians and their African counterparts were however encouraged to collaborate to produce goods and services as opposed to being overprotective of their own investment platforms.