Abuja — The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo has called for the sensitisation of the Medium, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) on the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to enable them benefit from the continental market.
The minister, while commenting on a report on, "Continental Integration and the Nigerian Economy," during a roundtable on AfCFTA agreement, which was organised by the Nigeria's Employers Consultative Association (NECA) in Abuja, reiterated the need to fill the knowledge gap on the possible effects of AfCFTA on the economy.
The report was based on the surveys conducted for 1,800 MSMEs in five states, covering multiple sociocultural zones, to evaluate the awareness and preparedness of MSMEs for the implementation of the agreement.
Adebayo said: "The survey results disclosed that the majority of MSMEs are unaware of the existence of the trade agreement, especially smaller businesses. This is an important finding for the nation, as this lack of knowledge will prevent their successful utilization of the agreement.
"The key takeaway is that more needs to be done to adequately disseminate information to our MSMEs to ensure that they are effectively prepared in the post-integration era."
He said AfCFTA had the capacity to boost intra-African trade and is expected to deliver an integrated continental market, consisting of 1.27 billion consumers with an aggregate GDP of $3.4 trillion.
He pointed out that Nigeria, as the largest economy in Africa, has the potential to greatly increase its trading volumes, production capacity and generation of foreign investments.
The minister said: "However, as a country, we can only fully benefit from this opportunity if we are adequately prepared for the impending changes that will affect our business environment. It is necessary that we understand the full-scale impact that AfCFTA will have on all people and businesses, especially in terms of job creation and economic activities.
"We need to effectively utilise the opportunities that will be created by this trade agreement to develop our local production capacity and achieve our industrial aspirations."
In a statement by his media aide, Mr. Ifedayo Sayo, he said MSMEs form the backbone of the private sector and contribute more than 90 per cent of GDP.
He added that with more than 40 million MSMEs in existence, employing close to 75 per cent of the Nigerian workforce, the impact of AfCFTA on the Nigerian economy will be significant.
Adebayo also pointed to the challenges faced by MSMEs in trying to scale their business and capture a larger share of the market, which included access to funding, access to markets, ability to attract quality talent, relatively high cost of operations and the burden of regulatory compliance.
He said the vision if the federal government is to eliminate these barriers to growth and improve their chances at succeeding in a post-AfCFTA economy.
He said, "We have established the MSME policy to drive the growth and competitiveness of Nigerian MSMEs. We also concluded a landmark $1 billion syndicated term loan through the Bank of Industry (BOI) to provide affordable loans to MSMEs. Also, we have developed the MSME Portal to provide MSMEs with wider access to the market and the opportunity to be matched with customers.
"The outcomes documented in this report will play a key role in determining the strategies that Nigerian businesses will need to take in order to thrive post-AfCFTA. The Federal Government will continue to do our part in supporting MSMEs on this journey."