Monday, April 26, 2021 / 3.30PM / Ottoabasi Abasiekong for WebTV / Header Image Credit: CSPPS
The Amplification of Nigeria's pockets of competitiveness will enable it to derive value from the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Business and Financial editors in Nigeria made this point in an interactive webinar forum organized by the Centre for Social Protection and Policy Studies (CSPPS), University of Lagos research team in line with promoting thought-led conversations on the AFCFTA.
The editors agreed that the Federal Government needs to identify specific islands of competitive advantage and embark on an industry-needs assessment/study to identify immediate, medium-term, and long-term policy actions required to support sectors such as creative arts (music, movies, and culture), fintech, and financial services.
They observed that structural reforms were necessary to address the deficits in infrastructure (roads, ports, and rail lines as examples) across the country. This according to them will enable the facilitation of AfCFTA implementation.
The forum also agreed that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) at the ports need to be adhered to strictly, as new port infrastructure across littoral states should be developed to ease the cost of doing business.
There was also the emphasis on mobilizing the citizens through extensive public education, media enlightenment campaigns, and sensitization workshops/seminars for citizens on the emerging opportunities of the AfCFTA for corporations and individuals.
Speaking further they believed it can typify the defunct MAMSER (Mass Mobilization on Socio-Economic Recovery) under the leadership of Professor Jerry Gana in the 1980s. They pointed out that the mobilization can be fashioned in the "Nigerian Way" like the "American Dream" which is about finding comfort in the indigenous methods of 'engineering' success.
This was linked to the development of a commonly agreed 'national ethos', a national work ethic that propels Nigerians towards economic success.
The focus group participants also noted that mass mobilization could be linked to two issues: a) inclusion of the informal sector however there was the issue of low trust in government which must be addressed; b). engaging and tapping the creative talents of youths which has been channeled into sectors like fintech (flutterwave) and entertainment/creative arts (music - Burna boy/Davido/Wizkid) and Nollywood (Nigerian films are watched in many African countries). It was recommended that these clear areas of competitive strength should be used as 'early bird' springboards for continental value creation and leadership.
They added that there was a need to revisit and revamp the country's outmoded trade policies (having a more coordinated and revised trade policy, would be good for regulations and improve practices and trade relations. This was linked to improvement in the cost or ease of doing business). This, the business writers said, would require creating good institutional frameworks that would address sector-specific constraints, for example - there is a need to address concerns in Nigeria's copyright/intellectual property laws (including trademark laws and policies).
The participants noted that Nigerians have a way of making the most of every situation and if it must be trade facilitation and building informal business alliance across borders but to use AfCFTA as a launchpad for a sea change the country needs to amplify the opportunities in the areas it has demonstrated global competitive advantages like banking (financial services), fintech, and telecommunications just to mention a few. So, discussants called for a bolder, more radical approach to accelerate and achieve the desired policy goals.
They observed that the reason the country has not been able to achieve sustainable changes in policymaking or policy process is that it fails to optimize every policy implementation episode into learning opportunities, where successes are engraved and etched into templates that become the standard for future successes.
To do this successfully, they stressed the need for deliberate and decisive steps in certain/specific areas in the government's policies, actions, and executions. This of course would call for improved policy coordination in key areas.
The government was advised on leveraging the influence of Nigerian global ambassadors who could mobilize citizens to adopt 'the Nigerian way', a can-do spirit that most Nigerians have in abundance.
Local industries and manufacturers were tasked with improving their service delivery and product standards if they are to be competitive in a burgeoning intra-continental marketplace.