Echoing the views of local manufacturers on the need to engage critical stakeholders preparatory to the AfCFTA ratification, the African Union Commission (AUC) has highlighted the importance of stakeholder consultation platforms for the success of the trade deal.
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) notes that while it is projected that Nigeria may become a big player and key driver of improved volume of intra-African trade in an African Free Trade Area, there is need for the right market offer mix, rules of origin, countervailing measures, dispute settlement mechanism, non-tariff and technical barriers provisions, amongst other protocols and annexures.
To achieve this, local manufacturers opine that the only way to guarantee this positive proposition is to ensure that the nation's negotiating team is guided by a credible and strategic country specific study.
Speaking on behalf of the Director for Trade and Industry at the African Union Commission, Ms. Treasure Maphanga, at a roundtable focused on Public-Private-People-Partnership (4Ps) "Living Labs" in fast-tracking the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Prudence Sebahizi, head of the AUC's AfCFTA Unit, highlighted the importance of stakeholder consultation platforms, especially to address issues relevant to youth, women and other special interest groups.
"The AfCFTA will not succeed unless there is a robust dialogue at national level complemented by regional and continental dialogue sessions," he further added.
Indeed, participants also emphasized the need for inclusiveness and community-level engagement when discussing trade policy and intra-African trade.
A key challenge for policy making in Africa was considered to be the lack of implementation of existing initiatives, and the need to better turn research into policy and innovation on the ground.
It was recommended that roundtable partners use the Living Labs concept to better advocate for intra-African trade and the AfCFTA and strengthen buy-in at national level, regional and continental level.
"For the avoidance of doubt, we again request that Mr President should not sign the AfCFTA agreement until the outcome of a credible study so indicate, but graciously allow the nation's team to resume participation in the negotiation processes only to ensure that the country is abreast of developments.
"This will certainly not jeopardise or constrain the reservation of our assent, should we eventually decide that the Agreement is definitely not in our favour. It will only mean that, whilst keeping our eyes on the goings-on, we can continue with our much needed and sovereign path to determine whether we should sign-on or not", MAN emphasised.