Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, a subsidiary of Standard Bank Group, has urged Nigerian investors and business owners to harness and maximise the business opportunities that are inherent in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. This will help boost intra-Africa trade beyond the current level of 17 per cent as well as promote industrialisation and the economic growth of the continent.
Wole Adeniyi, Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, made the call at the African Continental Free Trade Area webinar organised by Stanbic IBTC themed: “AfCFTA State of Play: Understanding Potential and Maximising Opportunities for the Customer”.
Wole stated that multiple studies have shown that the increase in trade has a direct impact on reducing unemployment and poverty in societies, he noted that the AfCFTA agreement presents numerous trade opportunities that are both exciting and promising not just for the continent but for the Nigerian market. The Chief Executive emphasised Stanbic IBTC’s readiness to leverage the trade opportunities of the AfCFTA agreement to unlock business opportunities for its clients in the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) sector as well as its corporate clients.
While delivering his keynote address on the theme of the event, the guest speaker, Bamidele Ayemibo, lead consultant at 3T Impex Trade Academy, pointed out that with the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement, Africa has the opportunity of becoming the largest market in the world with a population of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion. Ayemibo emphasised that the goal of AfCFTA is to create a single market for Africa and encourage the free movement of goods and services thereby facilitating trade transactions.
He pointed out that Nigerian customers can take advantage of the non-sensitive list, the sensitive list and the exclusive list in the agreement while engaging in various trade transactions with other African countries. According to him, out of about 5,000 AfCFTA codes or products in the world that fall under the non-sensitive list, 90 per cent are duty-free and Nigeria customers can take advantage of this. He added that countries can liberalise their products under the sensitive list within a period of 10 years while the exclusive list enables countries not to liberalise their products in order to protect that sector of their economy.
Ayemibo stressed that the Federal Government is currently developing a portal where Nigerian customers and investors can trade with other countries under the AfCFTA agreement. He explained that AfCFTA presents a huge potential for Nigerian manufactured products on the African continent because Nigeria produces about 90 per cent of such products that are imported by other African countries.
While appreciating Stanbic IBTC for the bold step it has taken to educate its clients and investors about the benefits of AfCFTA, Ayemibo added that information enables agreement such as the AfCFTA to thrive, lamenting that previous agreements like the Ecowas Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) collapsed due to lack of adequate information. He added that with its vast footprint across Africa through Standard Bank, Stanbic IBTC can reach out to its numerous customers and educate them on the benefits of the AfCTFA agreement.
The African Continental Free Trade Area is a free trade area founded in 2018, with trade commencing in January 2021. It was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. Nigeria signed the AfCFTA in 2019, after a year’s delay, and is considered as the most recent country to ratify the agreement.