”We Are Prepared For AfCTA-Ali

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By Stephen Ubanna

 It is no longer news why President Muhammadu Buhari  had opened the borders across the country with   Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African county of Cameroon after about  18 months of closure due to smuggling of Foreign rice, Small and Light arms into the country from these neighbouring countris.

 The Katsina state born Nigerian President  may not have wanted  the Nigeria  business Community  to be caught unawares  as the 55-member African Union, AU,  which are at different levels of  economic development had approved   the Commencement  of trading under  AfCTA, on January 1st, 2021. AfCTA, according to  informed sources is a flagship project of the African Union, AU, agenda 2063. The aim of the project, a source said  ‘’to boost  intra-African trade  by providing  a Comprehensive  and mutually beneficial agreement among the member states, covering trade in  goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights and Competition policy’’.

  Cyril Ramophosa, President, South Africa and Chairman, AU, which had midwifed  the AfCTA,     had re-echoed the Objective of the project when he  said that ‘’it will boost intra African trade , promote Industrialisation  and  Competitiveness’’.  The AU, chairman, had said  that the project ‘’will contribute to job creation in the Continent’’    as well as ‘’unleash  regional value chains  that will facilitate  Africa’s  meaningful  integration into the global economy’’. He further said  that ‘ it will  improve  the prospects of Africa as an investment destination and expand the productive capacity of countries’’.

Mene: Secretary General, AfCTA, Saddled With Enormous Responsibility

     The Ghana based economic bloc , which has Wankele Mene as the Secretary General,  appointed on  March 19, 2021  was said have resumed duties  at the Secretariat.  The AfCTA, secretariat has been  charged   with the various  responsibilities  related  to the implementation  of the project  by the 55 member countries    on August 17, 2020. This may have  been   the  Competent Authority  which the NCS  had waited   for over the last couple of months   to facilitate the issuance  and authenticating  certificates of Origin and registering enterprises and products within the region.   

Until the border closure  with  Benin Republic,  Niger , and Cameroon, in August 2019, the 2,400 Nigerian Companies , participating in the Economic Economic Community Of West African States , ECOWAS, Trade Libralisation Scheme, had dominated the ETLS. The ETLS, Authorities, Many believe that the ETL Authorities  may not have much difficulty in collapsing the Companies and their products into the larger AfCTA market.   

  It is not surprising why the  Nigerian President is optimistic that with the reopening of the closed borders across the country, the Nigerian, business Community, which had lost much due to  non –participation in the ETLS, market within the period   would bounce back with the AfCTA.

Ali: CG, Customs

This may have informed why Hameed Ali, a retired Amy Colonel and comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, had already  notified  the Nigerian business Community  about ‘’the steps that  must be taken’’   to enhance their participation  in the AfCTA, project  to ensure its smooth and  full implementation.

 The Customs Comptroller General   had said that instead  of the Nigerian business Community  proceeding  into the market  in a chaotic setting, the NCS, aware of its role as a  policy  implementer  and which understands  the  importance of  spelling out the  roles and  responsibilities of all the parties involved in project , had no option but to eel out  the condition  attendant in the African economic bloc implementation.

 The Customs boss was said to have also assured Nigerians and  the business Community  of ’’the Customs willingness and readiness  to play its role  as trade facilitators’’, noting that’’ the service functions had been automated and  systems driven’’. He disclosed  that ‘’the service  will methodically  harvest  and integrate all data  associated with AfCTA into its system  for easy deployment , access and use by the general public’’ This should gladden the heart of the Nigerian business Community.

 As a prelude for the full implementation of the AfCTA,  the Service, according to Joseph  Attah, a  Deputy Comptroller and Customs Spokesperson which   is currently  waiting for ‘’the report  of the National Action Committee, NAC,  on the list of the duties and charges waived  for the Liberalised goods under AfCTA is not resting on its oars. Particular, is the list of the three percent non-   libralised sensitive goods,10% liberalised  National trade offers and 70%  non-liberalised  inclusive goods at the regional level.

  A document made available  to The  Value News shows that the   AfCTA, project  which was launched  during the   12th  Extraordinary  Session  of  the Assembly of the African Union in Niamey,  Niger, on July , 2019, will be  governed  by five operational instruments: ‘’rules of origin, the online negotiating forum,  the monitoring and elimination  of non-tariffs barriers, a digital  payments system and the African trade observatory’’.

As the African countries prepare for the full implementation of the  project, AfCTA, many believe that the only country in the Continent which its big time Companies, could compete favourably with the Nigerian  Companies in the AfCTA  market are the South African Companies in the   Service and manufacturing sectors.

Perhaps to develop absolute Confidence in the system’’  the NCS, has suggested  that’’ each  member country  should have a representative in the Continental Chamber of Commerce to ensure transparency.  The Customs Authorities had said that the  Continental Chamber of Commerce will play a  Complementary role  to the activities of the various Chambers of Commerce of each country in the region.

  The Magazine findings shows   that the Customs Authorities may have been  foot dragging  in attending to Companies making inquiries on the AfCTA,  because ’’there was no clear-cut directives  concerning the tariffs for  all the goods covered  by the African economic  agreement’’. The ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning  agency  had promised ‘’ to fully  deploy the AfCTA  services at the shortest possible time’’.

  Ali,  had told those that cares to listen that the service desire is ‘’to imbue trust in the system while guaranteeing the economic safety  and businessess within the country’’. The retired army Colonel who could not hide his feelings had said that the Service  ‘’look with optimism  ‘’to an era  of Complete economic integration which  would lead to growth and prosperity for businesses within the region and the African Continent in general’’.                

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