Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Muhammad Sabo Nanono, says Nigeria’s strengthen in agriculture is the country’s strongest power to massively benefit from the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
AfCFTA is expected to create the largest free-trade bloc in the world measured by the number of countries participating.
The deal connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at $3.4 trillion, with the potential of lifting 30 million people out of extreme poverty. But, achieving its full potential will depend on putting in place significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.
Expectedly, the pact will reduce tariffs among member countries and cover policy areas such as trade facilitation and services, as well as regulatory measures such as sanitary standards and technical barriers to trade.
Full implementation of AfCFTA will reshape markets and economies across the region and boost output in the services, manufacturing and natural resources sectors.
Asthe global economy is in turmoil due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank says creation of vast AfCFTA regional market is a major opportunity to help African countries diversify their exports, accelerate growth, and attract foreign direct investment.
In its report, The African Continental Free Trade Area: Economic and Distributional Effects, the bank says AfCFTA is designed to guide policymakers in implementing policies that can maximise the deal’s potential gains while minimising risks.
Creating a continent-wide market will require a determined effort to reduce all trade costs. Governments will also need to design policies to increase the readiness of their workforces to take advantage of new opportunities.
According to the bank, of the $450 billion in income gains from AfCFTA, $292 billion will come from stronger trade facilitation—measures to reduce red tape and simplify customs procedures.
Tariff liberalisation is important, but by itself it will boost the continent’s income by just 0.2 percent.
Adding trade facilitation to the mix—including measures to reduce red tape, simplify customs procedures, and make it easier for African businesses to integrate into global supply chains—would boost the income gains by $292 billion.
‘’These gains will require major efforts by countries to reduce the burden on businesses and traders to cross borders, quickly, safely, and with minimal interference by officials’’, the bank says, adding, ‘’under AfCFTA, extreme poverty will decline across the continent—with the biggest improvements in countries with currently high poverty rates.’’
Continuing, the World Bank says West Africa will see the biggest decline in the number of people living in extreme poverty—a decline of 12 million (more than a third of the total for all of Africa), pointing out, ‘’Central Africa would see a decline of 9.3 million, Eastern Africa would see a decline of 4.8 million, Southern Africa would see a decline of 3.9 million.
‘’Countries with the highest initial poverty rates, would see the biggest declines in poverty rates. In Guinea-Bissau, the rate would decline from 37.9 percent to 27.7 percent. In Mali, the rate would decline from 14.4 percent to 6.8 percent. In Togo, it would decline from 24.1 percent to 16.9 percent.’’
“The AfCFTA has the potential to increase employment opportunities and incomes, helping to expand opportunities for all Africans. AfCFTA is expected to lift around 68 million people out of moderate poverty and make African countries more competitive. But successful implementation will be key, including careful monitoring of impacts on all workers—women and men, skilled and unskilled—across all countries and sectors, ensuring the agreement’s full benefit”, the bank insists
In the mean time, Nanono said in Kano State that AfCTFA, which Nigeria joined as a signatory in July 2019, officially took-off on January 1, 2021, after months of delay as a result of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister observed that with Nigeria’s more than 92 million hectares of fertile and cultivable land, favourable climate condition and an abundant and resilient workforce, the country stands to be the biggest beneficiary in the trade relationship that spans across 52 other African countries.
Nanono is therefore, calling on Nigerians to vigorously embrace agriculture in order to achieve food security in the country.
This was in support of the clarion call for Nigerians to return to the land, meaning to farm and participate in agricultural activities, made by President Muhammadu Buhari last week at the 5th regular meeting of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council held at the State House, Abuja.
“Going back to the land is the way out. We depend on petrol at the expense of agriculture. Now the oil industry is in turmoil. We are being squeezed to produce at 1.5 million barrels a day as against a capacity to produce 2.3 million barrels. At the same time, the technical cost of our production per barrel is high compared to the Middle East production”, Buhari said.
While listing the strides of Buhari’s administration in agriculture, Nanono submitted that the agricultural revolution initiated under the president has catapulted Nigeria to the position of number one rice producer in Africa and 13th globally.
These feats, Nanono pointed out, has translated into the healthy proliferation of hundreds of rice milling industries across the country, resulting in the meaningful employment of scores of thousands of previously unemployed youths.
He also called upon middle-class Nigerians to invest heavily in the agricultural value chains so as to avail more youths with gainful employment through agro-industries.
He further assured Nigerians that the ministry under his leadership will not rest on its oars until Nigeria attains the much-needed self-sufficiency in food production, and also reiterated this commitment to the drive to fully mechanise Nigeria’s agriculture through the massive tractorisation programme of the Federal Government.
The minister however, pointed out that about 5,000 units of tractors will be made available to farmers this year through allocation to farm clusters across the country.