BY: TOBILOBA FOLUWAKEMI OLULEYE

As a prelude to our discourse, it is germane to briefly consider the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (“AfCFTA”). The AfCFTA was introduced in March 2018, but officially came into force on 30 May 2019. In simple terms, its purpose is to eliminate restrictions to trade among the countries that signed it (“state parties”), to facilitate free trade and movement of business professionals and investments among the state parties.

Tobiloba Foluwakemi Oluleye

Now, the COVID-19 infection has exposed the over reliance of the world on china for their human resources, raw materials and finished products. It is to be noted that China being the epicenter of the infection was the first to lockdown its country before the others followed suit after discovering the infection in their countries. So many countries were affected by the lockdown and they complained bitterly of the insufficiency of testing kits, ventilators, face masks, protective equipment, etc., because they had been relying on china for so long. Africa was mostly affected by this, as many countries in Africa greatly rely on china for most of their products. Also, when the other western nations closed down, Africa was affected because of its  over reliance on imports from these countries.

However, this could also be seen as a blessing in disguise. This is because as we are suffering from the effect of the lockdown of different countries, we are beginning to realize our overdependence on china and other developed countries for most of our products. It is important to start looking into domestic production of goods and services within Nigeria and Africa. Senegal has set an admirable trend for other African countries to follow.  Instead of the country to follow the trend of complaining about the insufficiency of its products, it is now producing a cheap, effective test kit of $1 that can be mass produced and globally distributed and $60 3D ventilators. This development has shown that Africa has the resources to carry out its own production.

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Furthermore, it is important to note how the global lockdown (which led to reduced movement and consequently, the reduced need for oil) is affecting Nigeria, which has oil as its major source of revenue. Nigeria should start considering alternative sources of revenue such as its other natural resources, agriculture, manufacturing and exportation of its manufactured goods. Nigeria needs to reduce its over dependence on oil and imported goods.

Therefore, COVID-19 has opened our eyes to the need to boost domestic production within our country and Africa at large. It is also important to note that Africa has a large market for our domestic goods. It is therefore important to begin to take the AfCFTA seriously as it would help boost trade in Africa and promote the economy of state parties. The elimination of restrictions to trade in goods will enable the state parties to access raw materials easily, expand their customer base and market for their goods. It will also attract investments in these state parties and enable multinationals to partner with local firms to develop raw materials which would help technology transfer in the process.

In conclusion, the AfCFTA could be what Africa needs to position it as a leading force to reckon with globally. As a matter of fact, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that the application of the AfCFTA could increase intra-African trade by 52% by 2022 and greatly increase the share of intra-African trade by the beginning of the next decade.

TOBILOBA FOLUWAKEMI OLULEYE is a Senior Executive Writer with YoungNigerian.com. She is an intelligent and versed legal Practitioner, a writer with an astute passion for enlightenment, and also an active mentor volunteer. She writes on law, inspirational, lifestyle, career and health related issues. You can reach her on [email protected] or on LinkedIn .