Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has said that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) would be a “game changer”.
According to him, AfCFTA is going to be the largest free trade area in the world and make doing business much easier for countries with seamless access to 54 markets which is a huge advantage.
The minister, who attended the 7th Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi India, where he took part in two panel discussions with the themes “Out of Africa: Leading on Trade and Economic Integration”, and “Building the Gates of Globalisation: Investment; Infrastructure and Taboos”, called for stronger ties between Nigeria and India.
He also took time out to speak on the various partnerships for infrastructure development, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and other initiatives with India, the European Union, and other African countries all of which contribute enormously towards development.
He said: “Why I say AfCTA is going to be a game changer is because it will make it easier for our political leaders and Africans
to reach out to other African countries so what will come as a result or consequences will be infrastructure- the trans saharan highway and continental highway across Africa promoting connectivity and doing business. That will be the natural result of pulling down all the barriers that are preventing this connectivity within the continent.”
Speaking on the role of Africa in the upcoming world in terms of trade, cooperation and partnerships especially with Africa’s Asian partners and India as a special partner, Onyeama said bearing in mind the fact that Africa has always been pioneering in connecting the world since ancient times with the trade routes going through Africa along the spice trade routes or the Suez canal, with the new digital age, Africa is playing a role with it’s youth full of potential and looking for partnerships with a dynamic and prosperous Asia.
Onyeama, who in this context and from the Nigerian perspective…a perspective of a country already sharing close ties with India, he shared his thoughts on how India and Africa can work together to foster further connectivity and commerce.
He noted that Nigeria and India have had a long history of very close cooperation and people to people relations with generations of Indian families living in Nigeria, Nigerian students in India and in the military establishments.
He said: “We know ourselves very well and of course now in a globalised world there is a lot more we can do. India has a comparative advantage in the health sector- we saw the role India played in the COVID-19 outbreak. India has a very strong pharmaceutical sector so the health field is an area we can do a lot with India. And we have seen the ICT miracle that is in Bangalore. Also, the technology capacity of India is another area that we can cooperate in. Nigeria has a very youthful population that is also getting into ICT and is extremely dynamic and the partnership with India could absolutely be a game changer for us.”
Speaking further, Onyeama said “India is the second-largest producer of steel in the world. We want to industrialise. We have had challenges with developing our steel industry in Nigeria so that’s another area we can do alot with India. We have a framework already although it’s a continental framework of India-Africa Summit and clearly we are looking at developing a more precise roadmap that responds to the priorities and needs of our country.
“We can also look at other areas such as the culture industries. You have Bollywood and we have Nollywood so there is a great deal we can do together.”
He also explained that though the two countries have very similar demography in many ways, “the population of India is way bigger, but in Africa Nigeria is the largest country and so I think that the ingredients for substantive partnerships is very much there.”
Speaking on the Post COVID-19 and in the context of Africas entry into the global value chain, Onyeama said/ “We want to diversify not just our production but also our partners. Where value chains are concerned its always been targeted towards the western countries but clearly Asia is a lot more prominent in our engagement and notwithstanding the global challenges of today we are moving more and more increasing our partnership with Asia and of course India is a big part of that as is China and one or two other countries. So notwithstanding whatever else is happening globally we intend to prioritise and push on.”
On the sidelines of the seventh Raisina Dialogue which had more than 200 speakers from 90 countries in attendance, Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama met separately with his host External Affairs Minister of India, Dr. S Jaishankar, and colleagues from Slovenia and Philippines to discuss bilateral relations between Nigeria and the different countries.
While in India, Onyeama visited one of India’s largest steel and power plants, addressed and inaugurated the Nigeria-India Business Council with an impressive attendance by Indian captains of Industry and interacted with 30 invited African Ambassadors and members of the Nigerian Community including students.