Buhari tasks African leaders on cooperation
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The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Friday said the African Continental Free Trade Area would succeed when African countries demonstrated a higher commitment that trumped the various regulatory and political trade barriers slowing free trade among countries.
Buhari, who lamented the meager volume of intra-regional trade in Africa, said only the right collaborative action would bring a much stronger pace of transformation.
He said if this new drive towards a continental free trade area was to succeed, the affected countries must demonstrate a higher level of commitment to tackling the slow pace of physical integration due to geographic and political fragmentations.
The President spoke at the second African Sub-Sovereign Governments Network Conference organised by the African Export-Import Bank in collaboration with the secretariat of AfCFTA and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, at the State House, Abuja.
This is according to a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, titled “How Africa’s free trade area can succeed – President Buhari”.
Buhari said, ‘’As leaders, we must all be concerned that we are not trading enough amongst ourselves. It is a bitter reality that intra-regional trade still accounts for a very tiny fraction of total trade in Africa. We have to understand that if this new drive towards a continental free trade area is to succeed, we must demonstrate a higher level of commitment to tackling the slow pace of physical integration due to geographic and political fragmentations, the pace of political cooperation, and difficult tariff and non-tariff barriers that inhibit business integration.
‘’I am firmly convinced that with the right collaborative action, we will be able to record a much stronger pace of transformation. Through shared knowledge, innovation and creativity, we will be better able to cater to the needs of the African continent’s population of over 1.4 billion people.”
Speaking further, he urged the conference to use the network and support provided by pan-African institutions as a platform for the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and skills.
Buhari also commended the organisers of the conference for demonstrating innovative thinking by taking the AfCFTA to the grassroots, lauding the President of Afreximbank, Prof Benedict Oramah, and his team for committing US$250m as seed capital towards the establishment of the AFSNET.
The President recognised the support of the secretariat of the AfCFTA and the role of its Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene, in organising the conference in Abuja.
He highlighted the critical role of the African Union Commission in the development of Africa and expressed delight that this initiative complemented the AU’s vision of achieving the 2063 agenda, ‘The Africa We Want’.
He also commended the outgoing Chairman of the NGF and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, who recently emerged as the President of the Forum of Regions in Africa, for being at the forefront of sharing and exploring opportunities that improve production and trade facilitation activities with his peers in the region.
Buhari said his regime had “remained particularly resilient” despite the various challenges of his seven years in office.
In separate messages at the event Governor Fayemi, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo and the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Afreximbank, Prof Benedict Oramah, welcomed the need for deliberate action to remedy the continued reliance on Africa on external trade partners, noting that the AfCFTA provides the platform to do that.
Pledging the commitment of Afreximbank, Oramah said the bank had disbursed over $20bn in support of intra-African trade and was on its way to doubling this to $40 billion in the next five years.