AfCFTA Stakeholders Forum Organizes Sensitization, Consultations Meeting in Borno

By Ahmed Abu, The Nigerian Voice, Maiduguri
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The Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN) of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in partnership with the Borno State Government have organized a one day forum for the Northeast Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria, a “Stakeholders Sensitization and Consultation Forum, on the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The AfCFTA Northeast Stakeholders’ Forum sensitization and consultations meeting which was held at the Multipurpose Hall, Government House, Maiduguri, Borno, Nigeria, on Tuesday 15th May 2018 was declared open by Alhaji Kashim Shettima, the Executive Governor, Borno State, who was represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Usman Maman Durkwa

While Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, the Chief Trade Negotiator who is also the Director General of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations in his welcome address said the objectives and purposes of the AfCFTA nation wide Sensitization and Consultation exercise was jointly moderated by Alhaji Yarima Lawan Kareto, the Borno State Commissioner for Trade, Investment, Tourism and Industry and Ambassador Osakwe.

Ambassador Osakwe, "The visit to the Maiduguri Dikwa, Gamboru-Ngala border to observe the endless line of trade convoys transporting Nigerian products into Central Africa and the unanimous endorsement of the AfCFTA at the geopolitical Forum, mark a turning point in the sensitization and consultation exercise.

"The height of the North-East geopolitical zone sensitization and consultation on AfCFTA was the positive relationship established by stakeholders between trade, cross-border cooperation, security and stability, Osakwe said.

In his Opening remark, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, the Executive Governor, of Borno State underlined the historical importance, over time, of cross-border, intra-African trade for economic growth and welfare, job creation and the overall prosperity of the Northeast Zone of Nigeria.

He said Cross-border trade between the Northeast Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria and neighbouring countries in Central Africa have gone on for centuries, pointing out that, this cross-border trade had sustained growth, generated jobs, supported rural well-being and livelihoods and promoted prosperity-based dialogue, in the context of a previously environment-friendly Lake Chad Basin.

According to him, Trade Integration was critical for growth, job creation and poverty reduction, not only in the Northeast region, but throughout Nigeria.

Governor Shettima underscored the fact that the peace, security and stability of the Northeast Geopolitical Zone and the neighbouring African countries, on the foundation of cross-border trade, were mutually supportive with the goals of peace, security and stability of Nigeria, noting that, Trade cooperation remains one of the solutions for re-building fractured societies and post-conflict economic recovery.

Shettima also informed the AfCFTA Northeast Forum Participants that, seven (7) Governors, from countries in the Lake Chad Basin States and provinces, in Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, met in Maiduguri on 8th and 9th May.

"The 7 Governors from the 4 countries have established the Lake Chad Basin Governors’ Forum, facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

"They had agreed to a framework for building peace and fostering sustainable development across the Lake Chad Basin. Tackling the challenges being faced in the Basin required collective efforts and cross-border cooperation," Shettima said.

The Governor also said that the Lake Chad Governors’ Forum affirmed their commitment to use the platform to promote dialogue and cross border while noting that the AfCFTA, was designed to expand intra-African trade and mutually supportive with the platform and the objectives of the Lake Chad Governors’ Forum, agreed on 9th May by Chad, Cameroun, Niger and Nigeria.

Governor Shettima expressed appreciation to the Federal Government of Nigeria for the honour of hosting the AfCFTA for the Northeast Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria, stressing that, the Northeast gave the AfCFTA, for intra-African trade, its full and undivided support.

AfCFTA Northeast Stakeholders’ Forum Participants welcomed the 21st March 2018 “Presidential Directive on the African Continental Free Trade Area” and gave its support to the nation-wide exercise to engage in a thorough and systemic consultation with industry and sectoral groups, business owners and operators.