…Set up local action c’ttee
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has expressed his administration readiness to collaborate with the National Action Committee on the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, AfCFTA, in achieving the set objectives for the benefit of residents.
The AfCFTA agreement sought to create a single market for well produced in the continent and the adopted multilateral contract will afford signatory countries access to combined Gross Domestic Product GDP of $3.4 trillion.
Sanwo-Olu made the remarks on Tuesday, when the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and Chairman, National Action Committee on African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), Otunba Niyi Adebayo, led a delegation on a courtesy visit to his office at the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja.
According to Sanwo-Olu, “We have been listening and observing quietly as a sub-national to wait for any time like this where we can collaborate and take ownership at the sub-national level.
“We know about AfCFTA, we know what it stands for, now that you have taken time to lead this delegation and tell us what is required of us, and the collaboration expected from our government, I can assure you that we will work with your team and the programme set out, especially the National Action Committee you chair because we know it’s only when we work with you and domesticate the implementations that we can begin to see the expected outcomes.
“I assure you that Lagos is not just the commercial or economic nerve centre by mouth, it’s also so that we can take that leadership role in the comity of states and lead effectively. We need to scale up infrastructure, capability to be able to take full advantage of what the entire African economy has to offer our country and state.
“With almost a billion population and a total Gross Domestic Product, GDP that is over 3 trillion I think it’s a ready-made market for us as a nation and in Lagos, in particular, to be able to take advantage.
“It’s no small feat being the largest cosmopolitan in Africa and we do not take it for granted, we know that we can be home to everybody and so we want to build that capacity which can only be possible if we have enough infrastructure and understanding what is expected of us.
“Over the weekend, we inspected the Lekki ports and see the things we are doing at the free trade zones. We looked at the refinery and fertilizer plants and all the opportunities that abound in the zone.
“Lagos indeed is getting ready because of the ports, which create about 20 to 30 per cent of GDP ( for big economies) . Lekki port will open up Nigeria to international and African businesses more, both for import and export.
“The Apapa and Tincan Ports can only take 4,000 MTUs as the biggest vessel that can come there but the lekki port, once completed by last quarter next year, is 18,000 MTU that’s about four times.
“This means that in both ways we can receive a lot more imputes and take more. So mark to business will be quicker and faster and we see also developing all the infrastructure that is required to do this business, road, power and extensive community engagement so that they are ready and able to take full advantage of the opportunity.
“We are happy it’s still a 5 to 10 years first phase, and we know that though we don’t have all the t’s crossed and I’s dotted, but in another 12 months, am sure Lagos will be fully ready.
“We are also intervening in power, off-grid capacities, buying meters for our people so that we can be ready.
“This is the largest investment in fintech in Africa, we are not just collaborating with the private sector, we are also enabling startups on a yearly basis, we will approve another set for some of our tech startups, granting them funding as seed for them to come up with creative ideas, some of them even get international recognition, so we are getting ready on all platforms.
“We are building another terminal at the airport, thanks to the federal government, and this attracts a sizeable percentage of international travel.
“We are doing a 3000km metropolitan fibre optics connectivity to grid Lagos. Once we get this right. What is required for telecom companies, small businesses, to rise and use it for security, health services, education and other platforms that can be the future that we see?
“Our Vision and programs sit with what AfCFTA is all about and we see your committee as partners.
“We want our people to think local but act global so they can have the opportunity to send their goods and products to every part of Africa and the world.
“We will work with your team, set up a local action committee where we can have a one-stop shop for the private sector on information, guidelines, understanding what is expected of them so that this thing can take footing quickly and Nigeria can take its full benefit.
“We want others to enjoy the benefits, but we are not a big nation for nothing. We want to take the full benefits but also to open our markets for others to access.”
Adebayo said since Lagos remained the arrowhead State for Nigeria’s export trade expansion, it is uniquely positioned to take full advantage of the AfCFTA agreement.
He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari charged the Committee to coordinate the activities of public and private sector stakeholders at all levels to undertake interventions to prepare Nigeria for trading under AfCFTA.
“Since the bulk of Nigeria’s wealth, both natural resources and human talent, are domiciled in the States, it is a matter of necessity to domesticate the trade agreement at the State and grassroots levels.”
In the company of the minister was the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Public Sector Matters, Mr Francis Anatogu; the Ministry’s Director of Trade Department, Mr Aliyu Abubakar; President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Engr. Mansur Ahmed; Secretary-General of African Ship Owners Association, Ms Funmi Folorunsho and Director-General of Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Ambassador Ayoola Olukanni.