Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt urged to leverage intra-Africa trade, diversification
Key members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) on Tuesday emphasised urgent need for Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt to synergize by leveraging on intra-African trade in the bid to harness vast socio-economic opportunities in the region.
This, according to the stakeholders drawn from National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), National Automobile Technicians Association (NATA), who converged at the stakeholders’ workshop on Economic Partnership Arrangement (EPA) held in Abuja, can be achieved through the establishment of bi-national Commission among the three leading African economies.
They also emphasised the need to include culture and tourism into the economic diversification of the present administration, improve and prioritise value addition as well as encourage patronage of locally made goods in the bid to achieve set objectives of reflating the economies of the participating countries.
A 2014 statistics in Europe showed that 69% of exports were to other countries on the continent; in Asia the figure stood at 52% and in North America intra-trade was 50% while Africa had the lowest of intra-regional trade of 18%.
Using the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the end of 2015 published by the International Monetary Fund, Bloomberg reported that the size of South Africa’s economy was $301 billion at the rand’s current exchange rate, while Nigeria’s GDP was put at $296 billion, followed by Egypt.
According to the fifth edition of Africa Competitiveness Report issued by African Development Bank (AfDB) unveiled during the World Economic Forum for Africa on 4th June, 2015, which studies on three key areas of economic activity – agricultural productivity, services sector growth and global and regional value chains:
“The data points to low and stagnating productivity across all sectors: agriculture, manufacturing and services, partly ad a result of ongoing weakness in the basic drivers of competitiveness such as institutions, infrastructure, health and education.”
According to Ken Ukoha, NANTS President noted that the EPA with EU was designed to impoverish Nigeria and other African economies and further worsen management of forex and interest rates.
Ukoha who observed that the Europe at present astronomic comparative advantage over the African continent, stands to gain $701 million while Africa stands to lose $470 million yearly if the pact becomes operational.
“It will lead to capital flight and shut us out of South-South trade with the Asian countries. So if we sign with Europe, you have shut yourself; so we should be wiser.
“At that time it will be extremely difficult to manage foreign exchange and interest rates will skyrocket. But what is in our basket to send to Europe? Some of the vehicles we bought for the parliamentarians, how many of them are built here?”
Ukoha who was part of the EPA negotiating team, frowned at the undue pressure being mounted on Nigerian government to sign the pact, saying: “everything about EPA was bad from the conception to negotiation process to its final outcome. The agreement itself is not fulfilling and does not give any hope to Nigeria as a country especially when you look at where we are coming from and where we are today. And I made bold to say this, we are coming from a background of colonialism, we are coming from a point where Nigeria had been shortchanged in terms of resources.
“Now if we are resource-stripped, do you think we should choose going into squeezing ourselves into an agreement that will clip our wings from legitimately using our own resources and regulating the economy? That will be too dangerous. Finally looking at the outcome of the agreement, there are many articles there that are in variance with the objectives of the EPA and the question is why should it be, why should our government be harassed, why should there be undue pressure to sign? I think if we sign the EPA it will be double suicide,” Ukoha observed.
While applauding the diversification of the Nigerian economy through agricultural sector, the NANTS chief emphasised the need for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to put industrialisation of Nigeria at the front burner.
He observed that the devaluation of Naira impacted heavily on the country due to dearth of industries that can produce what could be exported.
“If you look at the statistics, you will see that most of the things we consume are imported. For example, take a look at rice, wheat, fish and fishery products, you will see that most of these products are still being imported. If we are a consuming nation, it means we need to sit down and produce for our own population first because we have the market within the West Africa of about 350 million people with Nigeria having about 180 million,” Ukoha noted.
The Convener of the Stakeholders’ meeting, Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor, explained that the stakeholders’ meeting was conveyed to examine and harvest inputs of Nigerians on the objectives of EPA with EU, stressing that the proposed pact at present “is not in the interest of Nigerian economy.”
Bellonwu-Okafor who described the EPA as an unholy union between a 200 year old man and 15 year old girl, argued that the pact is Master-Slave relationship.
“When you look at it, you should ask what is the strength of these two partners? Let me give you this example: if you see a 15 year old girl who wants to get married to a 200 year old man. Common sense tells you there’s something wrong with that partnership. Everything is wrong because Nigeria is not economical well-positioned to enter this agreement, our industries are weak, the manufacturing sector has not yet found its bearing.
“But what we are expecting is that Nigerian government should have concerned itself with is to stabilise the manufacturing sector by casting conducive environment that will help a struggling small, medium scale and micro-enterprises and help them find their feet. It’s only when these ones have been sufficiently empowered to come up to certain level that you can enter into partnership with a continent that had colonised us in Africa for ages. For us, this is not a partnership but Master-Slave relationship,” Bellonwu-Okafor told BusinessDay.