Legal experts have backed the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to boost Nigeria’s and other member nations’ economies when it goes into force next January.
They spoke at a webinar organised by the Alliance Law Firm, Lagos, with the theme: Leveraging International Trade Law for the Recovery of the Global Economy During the Post- COVID-19.
Participants included keynote speaker and President of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah; Director of Agriculture and Commodities Division, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Edwini Kessie; Partner, King and Spalding LLP, Mr. Daniel Crosby; Director of Legal Services, African Export-Import Bank, Ms. Samallie Kiyingi and the immediate past Registrar of the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (UNIRMCT), Dr. Olufemi Elias.
The Chairman of Nigeria Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL), Mr. Seni Adio (SAN); Chairman of International Trade Law Committee and Managing Partner of Alliance law firm, Uche Val Obi (SAN) and the Principal Partner of Folashade Alli and Associates, Mrs. Folashade Alli, moderated the event.
Prof. Oramah explained that in the absence of international cooperation towards a shared growth and prosperity at the world level, Africa has to take its destiny in its hands.
“Thank God, our leaders have risen to the challenge. The AfCFTA provides that alternative. The journey for a rich Africa has already begun with the signing of the AfCFTA,” he said.
But Oramah regretted that the emergence COVID-19 had caused the shift of the commencement date of the agreement from July 2020 to January 2021.
Stressing that AfCFTA is expected to boost inter-Africa trade, Oramah charged lawyers to advise governments and stakeholders on the essential elements of the agreement.
On how Nigeria could use the emergence of COVID-19 to address the continent’s challenges, Obi noted that the country hesitated in signing the agreement on the excuse that it wanted to carry all stakeholders along.
But, according to him, it was never in contest that AfCFTA was a relevant continental pact meant for the economic growth of member-states.
He stressed that Nigeria’s closure of land borders around October 2019 to curb smuggling aggravated the situation.
He added: “COVID-19 provided an opportunity to assess the contribution of international trade to the global economy. Consequently, it has become imperative for concerted efforts to be made at the regional level to restore things.”