The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has urged the Federal Government to sign the African Continent Free Trade Agreement to enable the country to reap the benefits of the pact.
The President, ACCI, Adetokunbo Kayode, who said this, noted that by opting out of the deal, businesses operating in Nigeria would not be able to effectively have access to the over 1.2 billion consumers on the continent.
The Federal Executive Council had on March 14 approved that Nigeria should sign the framework agreement for the establishment of the initiative.
But few days to the signing of the agreement, President Muhammadu Buhari opted out of the African Union meeting where the pact was to be endorsed by 55 African countries.
The President said he withheld his assent to enable the Federal Government to consult more with major stakeholders on the impact of the pact on the economy.
The Nigeria Labour Congress had urged the Federal Government not to sign the trade agreement as it would expose the country’s economy to dumping.
But Kayode, in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja, said the agreement represented a major opportunity for Nigerian businesses to gain greater access to the fast-growing African market.
He stated that the potential for the continent free trade agreement was big for both structural transformation and poverty alleviation in Africa.
Kayoed said, “It is vital that Nigerian businesses continue to diversify their export markets and with this agreement, trade barriers for companies across a number of sectors will be reduced, thereby creating access to new markets within Africa.
“Intra-African trade, as a driver for economic diversification, can help to harness the unexploited opportunities that exist in many product categories, particularly food and agricultural products.
“I am optimistic that the AfCFTA could increase intra-Africa trade by about 52 per cent, resulting in an increase of African manufacturing exports from the current average in which manufacturing only represents about 10 per cent of total Gross Domestic Product in Africa.
“The potential for the AfCFTA is big for both structural transformation and poverty alleviation in Africa. Nigerian businesses will have access to nearly 1.2 billion consumers through this agreement and Nigeria’s engagement in this region is important as it builds our presence in markets where we should be doing much more business.”