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Stakeholders emphasise urgency of implementing AfCFTA for economic growth

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Stakeholders on the continent have reiterated the importance of implementing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in Africa.

They spoke at a conference organised by ECA in partnership with the AfCFTA Secretariat and the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) in Nairobi, Kenya.

It was gathered that the conference theme is titled, “AfCFTA Implementation Strategies: Towards an Implementation Peer Learning Community.”

Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA), Director, Regional Integration and Trade, Dr Stephen Karingi emphasised the transformative potential of the AfCFTA for the continent.

“The AfCFTA holds the promise for our continent to overcome the colonial legacy of small and fragmented markets.

“And replace them with a single market of over 1.4 billion people with a collective GDP close to 3 trillion dollars

“However, the realisation of this promise hinges on the effective implementation of the commitments undertaken by AfCFTA State Parties,” he said.

The director called on AfCFTA state parties to adopt an urgent and expedited approach to implementing AfCFTA strategies.

He said, “implementation is primarily a national responsibility. Therefore, governments must also be ready to finance complementary policies and investments, especially from domestic resources, for its success.”

“This will foster the much desired diversification of African economies, creating resilience to withstand economic, health, and food security shocks.”

He said ECA had supported over 30 countries and two regional economic communities (RECs) to develop and validate their national/regional AfCFTA implementation strategies.

He said four other countries and three RECs were at advanced stages in the development of their strategies with ECA’s support, while a further 13 were at the early stages of the process.

Similarly, Albert Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry, and Minerals, described AfCFTA as a “launchpad” for deeper continental integration.

He envisioned the conference as a platform to fast-track policy innovation and facilitate dialogue on investment flows to Africa.

Meanwhile, Stephen Jackson, UN Resident Coordinator for Kenya, commended the idea of a peer-learning platform on AfCFTA implementation.

Jackson said, “If we fail to maximise the opportunity to knit Africa together economically, then we will fail the Sustainable Development Agenda, leaving large populations within large parts of the continent behind.”

Acting Director for International Cooperation in the Kenyan Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, Joseph Rotich, also reiterated the importance of AfCFTA.

According to Rotich, the AfCFTA’s success depends on transparency, active participation, and a willingness amongst Africans to learn from one another and to adapt.

Also, Director of Institutional Matters and Programmes Coordination at the AfCFTA Secretariat, Prudence Sebahizi, emphasised the crucial role of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in connecting national efforts and fostering regional trade.

Sebahizi, speaking on behalf of Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, also commended the idea of a peer-learning platform.

He said future initiatives would be conducted through a formal platform established by the AfCFTA Council of Ministers in the form of the Committee of Focal Persons representing National AfCFTA Implementation Committees.

The conference concluded with a unanimous agreement to raise awareness among the private sector about AfCFTA, involving more SMEs, women, and youth.

“The commitment is clear: systematically involve the private sector in AfCFTA strategy development, ensuring a comprehensive approach to continental economic transformation.

“AfCFTA implementation strategies play a crucial role in translating continental commitments into national laws, regulations, and administrative processes.

“It provides practical guidelines and roadmaps to unlock emerging opportunities in the integrated African market,” the experts agreed.

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Naira will continue to appreciate against dollar – Shettima

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Vice President Kashim Shettima has expressed optimism that the Naira would continue to appreciate against the dollar at the forex market.

Spokesperson of the Vice-President, Mr Stanley Nkwocha, in a statement on Saturday, said Shettima stated this at a meeting with officials of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), at the President Villa, Abuja.

He said President Bola Tinubu ended the fuel subsidy and ensured the unification of the multiple exchange rate because the former arrangement was producing billionaires overnight.

“Naira went haywire and some people were celebrating but inwardly we were laughing at them because we knew that we have the leadership to reverse the trend.

“Asiwaju knows the game, and truly the Naira is gaining and the difference will drop further.”

He recalled that the quality of leadership provided by President Tinubu as governor of Lagos laid the foundation for the massive development witnessed in the state.

Shettima assured that the Tinubu administration is doing its best to address challenges in the power sector.

According to him, Tinubu’s administration is aware that power is absolutely essential for development.

“We are determined to ensure that we generate jobs for our youths. Honestly, the President’s obsession is to live in a place of glory, to transform this country to a higher pedestal.

“He wants to leave a legacy, one of qualitative leadership because the hope of the black man, the hope of Africa rests with Nigeria.

“I want to assure you that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is one of you. He understands your ecosystem. In this government, you have an ally and a friend.”

Earlier, the President of LCCI, Gabriel Idahosa, emphasised the need for the Federal Government to consider more innovations to address the insecurity challenge in the country.

He also urged the Tinubu administration to ensure a significant upswing in the pace and scale of alternative policy measures that promote credit access, stimulate investment, and support entrepreneurship.

“This could include targeted interventions such as concessional lending facilities, loan guarantees, and interest rate subsidies tailored to the needs of SMEs and key sectors of the economy like agriculture, manufacturing and power technology.”

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LCCI advocates discipline, export to sustain Naira appreciation

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LCCI advocates discipline, export to sustain Naira appreciationThe Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has emphasised the importance of maintaining discipline in the foreign exchange market to sustain the steady appreciation of the Naira.

The President and Chairman of the Council of LCCI, Mr Gabriel Idahosa, made the call in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Lagos.

Idahosa praised the efforts of the Central Bank of Nigeria in imposing discipline, attributing the recent Naira appreciation to curbing speculative activities.

“On the monetary side, the CBN is doing it. The primary efforts should continue to impose discipline in the foreign currency market.

“The abuses in the foreign currency market were prevalent and most of the fall in the value of the Naira in the last six months is not because there was any sudden calamity in the Nigerian economy.

“It was primarily because of very reckless speculations, that people were just speculating in the dollar, they had nothing to export, nothing to import, they were just buying the dollar for speculative reasons.

“And once the Central Bank started to impose discipline in the foreign currency market, we saw the value of the Naira rising very quickly by stopping speculation,” he said.

According to him, the strategies of the Central Bank, now, are designed to achieve a sustained discipline in the foreign currency market.

Idahosa highlighted the need to continue reducing the number of Bureau de Change operators, stressing that many operated without contributing to international trade.

He applauded the Central Bank’s move to enforce documentation and identification of buyers and sellers at BDCs, aiming to deter reckless speculation and curb illicit financial flows.

On the fiscal side, Idahosa urged President Bola Tinubu to prioritise a nationwide export drive, citing it as the key to bolstering the Naira and providing essential foreign exchange.

He emphasised the importance of fostering a culture of export among Nigerians across all scales of enterprise to reduce reliance on imports and strengthen the country’s economic resilience.

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Foreign reserves decline to $32.29bn

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The foreign reserve has depleted to $32.29 billion, which is a six-year low in the Central Bank’s course to save the naira.

This is the lowest level the reserves have been since September 25, 2017, when it was $32.28 billion.

The country’s foreign reserves declined by 6.2 percent, losing $2.6 billion since March 18, when the naira started its rebound from record-low levels against the dollar to $32.29 billion as of Monday, based on the latest available data from the CBN.

At the beginning of the month, the reserve was at $33.57 billion, then further dipped to $32.6 billion by April 12.

This comes as the CBN has attempted to save the naira through various interventions such as raising interest rates to 24.75 percent and managing foreign exchange trades.

It stepped up its intervention in the FX market with sales at both the official market and to BDC operators who sell dollars on the streets.

The apex bank, which sells $10,000 to each BDC every week, mandated them to only sell at a spread of 1.5 percent, which comes to N1,117 per US dollar.

The rate sold by the BDCs has set a defacto floor for the naira in the black market since the apex bank resumed sales to them in February.

Also, last month the CBN said it had cleared a backlog of $7 billion since the beginning of the year. That was built over the years as the central bank pegged its currency against the dollar, leading to a scarcity of foreign currency that deterred foreign portfolio investment. However, it’s unclear how much dollar debt the CBN retains on its books.

Akpan Ekpo, a professor of economics and public policy, said the CBN’s managed float system in which it is trying to ensure supply and curtail demand is not sustainable in the long term.

He said the CBN needs to be careful with how it depletes the foreign reserves as its main source is oil revenue.

“We need to manufacture non-oil goods and services, export them, and get foreign exchange and not depend on oil income,” he said.

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