The Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN) of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in partnership with the Imo State Government, organized a one day sensitization forum for the Southeast geo-political zone, on the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
The stakeholders sensitization and consultations meeting which was held at the Sam Mbakwe Hall, Concorde Hotels Ltd, Owerri, Imo State on Monday 21st May, 2018 was declared open by Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha the Executive Governor, Imo State, who was represented by the Commissioner for Information, Prof Nnamdi Obiaraeri.
In his opening remarks, Governor Okorocha said it was an honour for Imo State to host the South-East Sensitization and Consultation Forum on AFCFTA.
The governor stated that the principal economic livelihood activity in this zone is trade and industry, through which jobs have been created and livelihood conditions improved. He commended the establishment of AFCFTA saying it will boost intra-African trade, expand investment and promote industrialization of Africa.
He urged stakeholders to engage intensively in the exercise and underline areas where they require support from the government, to enable them as traders and industrialists to maximize the benefits of the AFCFTA.
Chief Trade Negotiator/Director-General of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe who represented the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, delivered an address on the objectives of the AFCFTA and the purpose of the nationwide sensitization and consultation exercise.
Ambassador Osakwe tressed that the origin of the agreement to 1980 when Nigeria put together the Lagos Plan of action to grow the economy of the continent and then in 1991 under the Nigerian leadership, an African Economic Community was formed in Abuja, in 2012, all the African leaders came together and decided that enough was enough in the sense that Africans are divided and ruled by those outside of Africa, with a number of trade agreements imposed on Africa by non-Africans, which was why African leaders in 2012 at Addis Ababa declared that Africa must take back its destiny with regards to economic matters and trade, which brought about this agreement.
“Based on estimates, 20 million Africans will be entering the job market every 12 months while in Nigeria approximately 1.5 million Nigerians enters the labour market every 12 months, in other words we have to do well in terms of growth, job creation, economic and family livelihoods to tackle the situation,” he said.
“The agreement was adopted on 21st of March 2017 in Rwanda by the African Union, but President Buhari gave directives to carry out sensitization and consultation of the six geo-political zones of Nigeria before it can be fully adopted and implemented.”
Ambassador Osakwe concluded that the main reason they are were in Imo was to enlighten everyone on the benefits, opportunities, the protections of the Agreement, which will enable you to play not only offence but also enable you to play defence and to seek advice on how to improve trading for everyone’s benefit.