The Executive Secretary- National Working Committee, African Continental Free Trade Area, Nigeria, Segun Awolowo, has expressed the readiness of the country to join the second phase of the Guided Trade Initiative.

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The initiative by AfCFTA is a solution-oriented approach that aims to facilitate trade between interested state parties by connecting businesses and products for export and import. In a statement on Thursday by the Head, the Strategic Communications Directorate of the National Working Committee, AfCFTA, Mabel Aderonke, said Awolowo disclosed this during a meeting with a delegation from AfCFTA Secretariat.

Awolowo noted that Nigeria’s commitment to AFCFTA is crucial in boosting the nation’s economic growth, noting that the alliance will broaden Nigeria’s economic goals and objectives.

It partly read, “We reached a milestone in the first phase of the GTI. This successful pilot project has brought about positive development changes, capacity-building initiatives, and economic growth by impacting trade between Nigeria and other AfCFTA member-states.

“As we prepare to join the second phase, it is to demonstrate and strengthen specific objectives and trade relations, particularly reducing trade barriers, streamlining customs procedures, ensuring infrastructure, and promoting value-addition with key industries.

“The new administration, with its Renewed Hope agenda, is focused on addressing challenges that hinder trade, such as improving logistics and transportation infrastructure. Simplifying customs procedures and strengthening trade-related institutions.

On his part, Director, Trade in Goods and Competition, Mohammed Ali, stated that the AFCFTA is a big train on a journey with the biggest economy in Africa, which is Nigeria.

“The Heads of state and governments met virtually in 2021 and announced the commencement of the AfCFTA agreement. The AfCFTA is a very big train, and it is a journey, and this journey has leaders. The biggest leader is Nigeria, with the biggest economy in Africa. So any effort or step taken by Nigeria towards AfCFTA is two steps, one step for Nigeria and one for the rest of the world. So that is important.

“We have concluded that trade agreement and opinion market is not the end goal. The end goal is to have economic advancement and industrialisation. We use the market access as a tool to attract more funds and relations to build our economies,” he said.

In his address, Dr Evelyn Ngige, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, who Mr Suleman Audu represented, disclosed that GTI would integrate Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises into a bigger supply chain as they don’t have to start going through the process of obtaining facilities beyond their reach.

“As being part of a larger supply chain, MSMEs will grow and move from micro to big markets that many people would want to be a part of.”

Also speaking at the meeting was Mr John Nwajumogu, Special Adviser to the President on Industry, Trade, and Investment.