Legal experts have assured that the commencement of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in January 2021 would boost the economies of member nations.
They gave the assurance at a webinar organised by Alliance Law Firm with the theme: “Leveraging international trade law for the recovery of the global economy during the post COVID-19.”
Participants at the webinar, which included the president of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah; director of Agriculture and Commodities division, World Trade organization, Edwini Kessie; Partner, King and Spalding LLP, Mr. Daniel Crosby; director of legal services, African Export-Import Bank, Samallie Kiyingi and the immediate past registrar, UNIRMCT, Dr. Olufemi Elias.
The event, which was moderated Folashade Alli, principal partner, Folashade Alli and Associates, also had in attendance, the Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL), Seni Adio (SAN); the chairman, International Trade Law Committee and managing partner, Alliance law firm, Uche Val Obi (SAN).
In his address, Prof. Oramah explained that in the absence of international cooperations towards a shared growth and prosperity at the world level, Africa has to take her destiny in her own hands.
“Thank God our leaders have risen to the challenge. The African Continental Free trade agreement provides that alternative. The journey for a rich African has already begun with the signing of the AfCFTA,” he said and lamented that the emergence COVID-19 has caused the shift of the commencement of the Agreement from July 2020 to January 2021 He stressed that AfCFTA is expected to boost inter-Africa trade. He charged lawyers to advise governments and stakeholders on the essential elements of the agreement.
Speaking on how Nigeria could use the emergence of COVID-19 to address its challenges, the organizer, Obi (SAN), noted that the country hesitated in signing the agreement on the excuse that it wanted to carry all stakeholders along.
He however maintained that it was never in contest that AfCFTA was a very relevant continental pact meant for the economic growth of member states. According to him, the closure of land borders by Nigeria around October 2019 to curb smuggling aggravated the situation.
This is because it was coming at the heels of the pressure to sign the pact.
“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,” he stated.