President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged that his administration would work on safeguards to support manufacturers as the country engages the next phase of the negotiations of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement.
This is even as he expressed sadness over the Apapa traffic gridlock which continues to disrupt economic activities in Lagos.
Buhari was speaking in an audience with the leadership of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. He described the consultative approach Nigeria took on the AFCFTA Agreement as “just another example of our desire for sustainable and inclusive growth.”
The president, who noted that studies revealed that, although the services sector was doing well, but “other key job creating sectors, such as manufacturing and processing, were still lagging behind. This is evident by the fact that intra-African trade only accounts for 14 per cent of Africa’s total trade. As a continent, our consumption is mostly of goods imported from outside the continent.”
Buhari who described the dependence on foreign goods as “both an opportunity and a threat”, urged Nigerian manufacturers to aggressively expand to meet the huge demand across the continent. “It is a threat as one can abuse the rules of origin to flood the market with imports from outside the continent, thereby destroying jobs here at home.”
President Buhari also expressed commitment to supporting the private sector to flourish and create jobs across the country, adding that “ in the last four years, we have invested heavily in infrastructure development.
“We supported our development banks to provide loans to traders and small enterprises. We signed executive orders to support local content consumption. We also focused on enhancing ease of doing business to facilitate investment.
“Thankfully, there was alignment with the monetary authorities and this significantly contributed to the successes we are seeing today. We shall continue to count on your support to ensure this goal is achieved.
The President, while admitting that the Apapa gridlock still remains a challenge, said: “It saddened me that businesses have had to suffer as a result of this. We are doing our best working with the Lagos State government to bring an end to this issue.”