Snippets from the NBA-SBL 2018 Conference: The AFCFTA – Gideon Ejemai

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There couldn’t have been a better time for business lawyers to discuss the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AFCFTA) than now.

At the just concluded Nigerian Bar Association- Section on Business Law Conference, we considered the theme-“Bringing Down the Barriers: The Law as a Vehicle for Intra-Africa Trade”.

The debate amongst stakeholders in the country on whether Nigeria should sign the agreement is still on as Nigeria backed out on signing same after the Federal Executive Council had announced that the President will sign the Agreement in Kigali on 21st March, 2018.

Representatives of 44 African Countries put their pens to paper on the said date.

The AFCFTA is to create a single continental market for goods and services amongst participating African countries.

As it is with change, there are always different reactions to it. While the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and a few other stakeholders are worried that signing the agreement may kill our industry and our jobs, Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, the Nigerian Chief Trade Negotiator is of the opinion that a big and vast country like Nigeria stands to gain a lot from the agreement as it will help Nigerian firms and businesses expand regionally and take advantage of facilities and infrastructure available in other African countries.

My Thought:

I am of the opinion that Nigeria should assent to the AFCFTA, as it will amongst several other benefits expand our frontiers in terms of movement of goods and services across Africa. However, this is not without certain reservations. Hence, I suggest that it is imperative that certain policies are created, institutions strengthened as well as laws put in place and all of these, appropriately enforced to adequately prepare us as a country for this change that is eminent in the wake of the AFCFTA.

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My reservations are not far fetched as same can be gleaned from the issues of our porous borders. Our borders are so porous that practically everyone, everything and anything can get into the country with so much ease.

Consequently, without policies, strengthened institutions and laws first put in place to serve as checks and balances  before Nigeria assents to the AFCFTA, this innovation may just  be a disadvantage to Nigeria as against being advantageous as Nigeria may become a dumping ground in the wake of this agreement.

To contact Gideon Esebame Ejemai: 08038062215 gideonejemai@gmail.com

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