-by our correspondent.
The success of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will depend on the ability of the financial services industry’s to facilitate the implementation process.
The Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan, who said this at a virtual forum with the theme; “ Exploring Nigeria’s Readiness for the African Continental Free Trade Area” organized by Deloitte, maintained that the banking industry in Nigeria is ready for the implementation of the AfCFTA, and will be responsible for facilitating transactions, mobilizing savings, allocating capital funds, managing risks and monitoring administrators so that the funds allocated will be utilised as envisaged.
In his words, “Nigeria banks have strong capital and their operating synergies have been tremendous for the past five years particularly in the digital banking space. Nigeria is a leading player on the continent in payments required to facilitate trade; mobilization of savings required to galvanize the economy; focus on the SME segment, which is the largest employer of labour especially in the critical industries such as Agriculture as Africa.”
MD/CEO Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan
The Ecobank Managing Director further said Banks would need to drive value creation by developing new technologies, scaling its payment infrastructure and methods to serve the diversified economies expected from the agreement adding that the continent’s financial services sector will also be relied on to provide the credit and support necessary for certain industries to grow, particularly the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors, which will be at the centre of Africa’s development goals following the AfCFTA enactment.
According to Akinwuntan, Nigeria’s financial service industry has the basic platform to enable African financial services to contribute significantly to the trade area. “The BVN innovation in Nigeria is unique, more like the social security number in USA. NIBSS, the hub for payment systems in Nigeria is a strong base that is scalable to a pan African payment network. In terms of continental expansion, we are beginning to increased interest in Pan African banks, Ecobank with strong Nigeria content, is a lead player in this space, with presence in over 33 countries in Africa, he stated.
Earlier, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, said the Nigerian government was irrevocably committed to the success of the AfCTA which complements Nigeria’s export diversification aspiration and provides preferential market access for Nigerian products and services in the vast African market.
“For Nigeria, the gains are significant, AfCFTA would expand market access for Nigeria’s exporters of goods and services, spur growth and boost job creation, eliminate barriers against Nigeria’s products, provide a Dispute Settlement Mechanism for stopping the hostile and discriminatory treatment directed against Nigerian, safeguard the Nigerian economy from dumping and unfair trade practices and support the industrial policy, among others among others.” He noted.
The Chief Executive officer of organisers of the event, Delloite West Africa, Fatai Folarin, said his organization decided to host the webinar to create awareness on the attendant benefits inherent in AfCTA noting that the trade agreement aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business, persons and investments within the African region.
The AfCFTA scheduled to commence in January 2021, is expected to pave the way for a rapid dismantling of impediments to cross-border trade such as the removal of tariff barriers for the establishment of the Customs Union. It will bring together all 55 AU member states covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people, in what would be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization.