The Federal Government has inaugurated a technical working group (TWG) for the promotion of made-in-Nigeria goods and services in agriculture and agribusinesses under the newly signed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) framework.
In his address at the inauguration in Abuja, the permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development, (FMARD), Dr. Ernest Umakhihe said the initiative would create a single continental market as well as reduce tariff and the application of non- tariff barriers to trade among African countries.
He stated that AfCFTA agreement would be the largest trade and investment block agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), adding “these opportunities will boost intra African trade amongst 1.2 billion people and a cumulative GDP of $3.4 trillion. Of a particular note, UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) envisages a potential increase in African trade by 52 per cent in 2022”.
Umakhihe noted that the national action committee (NAC) of the AfCFTA was constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 20, 2019, to coordinate inclusive implementation processes for relevant stakeholders to assess the trade readiness and expected interventions.
“The Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development is a member of the productive sector steering committee for the AfCFTA impact and readiness study while the Hon. Minister of State is serving on the steering committee of the NAC on AfCFTA Champion for Agriculture and I am the team lead for the agric and agribusiness workstream,” he pointed out.
As a team lead of TWG, he promised to provide the necessary support and steer at work stream meetings and other engagements, to coordinate as needed the sectorial implementation imperatives in line with the vision and mission of the ministry.
The permanent secretary said it had become expedient that the TWG which would serve as a task team for the agricultural sector in the AfCFTA process would function as the focal point for AfCFTA workstream on agriculture and agribusiness in the ministry, provide secretariat and relevant input in AfCFTA on matters relating to the agriculture sector in the AfCFTA process ,coordinate the activities of the various sub-sectors and value chains in the ministry towards achieving the set targets in the context of the AfCFTA implementation imperatives, advocate, track, update document and communicate progress and status report on the subject for the ministry, among others.
He charged the TWG to “maintain the highest level of dedication, efficiency and develop strategic initiatives that will ensure seamless implementation of all aspects of the AfCFTA process that concern the sector especially, as it relates to periodic tracking and data collection on productivity, market access, standards and safety of agricultural products as well as wealth and job creation”.
Earlier in his welcome address, the director, planning and policy coordination department (P&PC), Mr. Abdulahi Zubairu, said the implementation of a common market in the context of the AfCFTA as a trade block would require a great deal of synergy between and amongst stakeholders in the agricultural sector in order to utilize the opportunities presented to drive comparative and competitive advantage.
“It is in the above contest that a ministerial TWG was conceived to coordinate all intrinsic and extrinsic issues in the sector along the respective value chain. This is a deliberate initiative to track, document with empirical precision report on progress to guide the sector towards taking its rightful position in the AfCFTA process,’’ he added.
Responding on behalf of the TWG, the chairman and deputy director in the ministry, Mr. Ibrahim Tanimu promised that the committee would work assiduously to ensure that agricultural component of the AfCFTA delivered on its mandates.
A statement by the ministry’s senior information officer, Obe Mbosire Mabel for the director, information, said in an earlier meeting with members of the UNDP-GEF-IAP-FS project, the permanent Secretary (FMARD) informed that the project was aimed at fostering sustainability and resilience for food security in the savannah zones of northern Nigeria in the seven states of Benue, Nassarawa, Adamawa, Gombe, Kano, Kastina and Jigawa respectively.
“The project is funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and facilitated by the UNDP and implemented by FMARD and the Federal Ministry of Environment with the objective of enhancing productivity and promotion of sustainability and resilience of the agricultural production,” he stated.