Monday, July 19, 2021 / 4:00 PM / Ottoabasi Abasiekong for WebTV / Header
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Nigeria's proposed revised trade policy must be broad-based and holistic supporting a productive economy if it hopes to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Dr. Ogho Okiti, an economist and Managing Director of Business Day newspapers, made this point while exploring the theme AfCFTA: Opportunities for Nigeria in Trade, Development and Jobs.
He decried the fact that Nigeria's trade policy in the last 50 years revolved around the single narrative of demand management, which emphasized foreign exchange management and tariffs.
Okiti noted that Nigeria has been obsessed with the import substitution strategy, but as a country needs to look at the trade from a broader perspective to make progress.
According to him, the trade policy should encourage a productive economy that is leading in exports, which will translate to competitiveness.
Speaking further he said, "Trade policy is not foreign exchange or tariffs, it has to be broader and holistic which means connecting production to pricing, logistics, destination, quality, and standards".
In the area of infrastructure, he believed Nigeria should build roads, bridges, rail, ports, waterways, broadband, and power on a strong macro-economic foundation that supports trade.
"The whole essence of infrastructure is to boost productivity, reduce the cost of doing business and make life easy for people," said Okiti.
He tasked the government with developing infrastructure in cities with effective planning including industrial and export processing zones, stressing that Nigeria can learn from Kenya that has leveraged its seaport to export flours.
The economist emphasized the need for infrastructure in Nigeria to key into the economic strategy of the government, which will reposition the country to benefit from continental free trade agreements like the AfCFTA.
In the area of awareness of the AfCFTA, Dr. Okiti said the focus should be on providing incentives that would encourage intra-African trade like improving air travel, payments systems, and road networks within the region.
He noted that pragmatic steps must be taken by the governments in the African region to ensure the AfCFTA serves the purpose of improving trade, fostering integration, and reducing poverty in the region.