The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a significant development for the African continent and presents a tremendous opportunity for Nigeria to increase its trade volume, encourage tourism and boost its economy, Adeniyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, has said.
Mr Adebayo disclosed this while delivering his speech during the National Tourism Transportation Summit (NTTS) and Expo recently held in Abuja.
The NTTS is a foremost tourism and transportation industries event anchored by the Institute for Tourism Professionals of Nigeria.
Speaking at the event, the minister said the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government has declared the year 2023 as the year for the Acceleration of AfCFTA Implementation.
“Therefore, Nigeria must seize the immense opportunities presented by the AfCFTA to drive economic growth and development.
“By harnessing its tourism potential, advancing aviation and transportation, promoting trade export, and fostering domestic industrialization, Nigeria can position itself as a key player in intra-African trade.
“Collaboration, both domestically and across the continent, will be crucial in overcoming the barriers and challenges that lie ahead,” he said.
Outlining Nigeria’s strategic approach to playing and winning in the AfCFTA, Mr Adebayo said Nigeria must invest in enhancing its tourist infrastructure, including accommodations and transportation networks, to attract both domestic and international visitors.
He explained that Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage and diverse traditions should be showcased through targeted marketing campaigns and the creation of cultural festivals, thereby increasing tourism traffic and revenue.
“By promoting its unique destinations, including historical sites, national parks, and natural wonders. Nigeria should also partner with other African countries to promote cross-border tourism, promote intra-African travel and establish a single visa regime for the continent.
“Nigeria’s natural wonders, national parks, and wildlife reserves present excellent opportunities for ecotourism and adventure tourism, which can significantly boost tourism revenue and create employment opportunities,” he said.
The minister added that Nigeria should prioritize the improvement of air connectivity by investing in modern airports, air traffic control systems, and airlines, which will facilitate travel within Africa and beyond.
“Developing and upgrading road, rail, and water transport networks will enhance connectivity within Nigeria and foster regional trade and transportation links, thereby leveraging the benefits of the AfCFTA.
“Streamlining customs procedures, reducing bureaucratic bottlenecks, and investing in efficient logistics systems will enhance Nigeria’s role as a transportation hub, attracting businesses and fostering trade across the continent,” he said.
Mr Adebayo said Nigeria must also focus on diversifying its export products beyond oil, exploring opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing, and services, to tap into the growing demand within the AfCFTA market.
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“Meeting international quality standards and complying with trade regulations will enhance Nigeria’s competitiveness and allow its industries to thrive within the AfCFTA.
“Encouraging innovation and investing in research and development will drive domestic industrialization, leading to the production of higher value-added goods and services for export,” he said.
He added that in 2019, the African tourism market was worth an estimated $169 billion and supported 24 million jobs.
He said while this is laudable, domestic, and regional contribution only accounts for 55 per cent. Covid-19 has shown that markets must develop internal resilience, and so for the African tourism sector, intra-African tourism must improve, he said.
“Under the AfCFTA some progress is being made, for example, since January 1st, 2023, Kenyans can now live in and enjoy South Africa without a visa for three months a year at most.
“However, we must note that Nigeria is somewhat leading the front, as citizens of all African countries can access Nigeria’s visa-on-arrival service. While this is laudable, Nigeria must move from visa on arrival to no visa for African business persons,” Mr Adebayo said.
In his address, Olusegun Awolowo, executive secretary of the National Action Committee on AfCFTA, said the Nigerian government is committed to leveraging the opportunities presented by the AfCFTA to attract investment, foster cross-border trade, develop tourism sector, and promote inclusive economic growth that addresses the issues of unemployment, underemployment, and multidimensional poverty in the country.
He explained that the recent discovery to unlock Nigeria potentials is evident in the Nigeria – DRC Trade and Investment opportunity intiative.
“In 2021, trade between Nigeria and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) represented less than 0.1 per cent of the total trade of each country. There are 12 major products imported to the DRC from Europe, South America and a few African countries,” he said.
He said DRC imports over $200 million worth of poultry meat from North America and Europe.
“Investing in the soybean industry in Kaduna, Nigeria. This could help in reducing the cost of accessing feed for the poultry industry in DRC. Therefore, we must work aggressively towards moving the volume of trade between Nigeria and DRC from less than 0.1 per cent to at least 10 per cent in the next ten years.
“By implementing these strategies, it will enable Nigeria to unlock her trade opportunities presented by the AfCFTA to increase exports with fellow African countries and reduce dependency on trading partners like China and Europe.
“More importantly, Nigeria will be able to create a vibrant and sustainable intra-African trading environment,” he said.
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