Nigeria former President and Chairman of the advisory council of the Intra Africa Trade Fair Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has said in Cairo that it is a pity for Nigeria, Africa and Africans that Nigeria that has since 1963 been championing Africa cause is yet to sign the Africa free trade Agreement. Obasanjo who spoke at the forum “Conversation with former President of Nigeria” said that it is a great pity that Nigeria which should be at the table at this critical time is foot dragging. He said that Nigeria was at the forefront during the negotiation at the various meetings that were held across Africa. He said “I can not understand it. I hope and pray that Nigeria will be at the table before long. He said that whether Nigeria signs the agreement or not the rest of Africa will move on.”
He further said “when I want through the the exhibition stand, Nigeria had a formidable present both at corporate and public sector level, it is clear that the message of the need for Intra Africa Trade is getting to the Nigerian authority and the government is getting the message. Nigeria has been in the forefront, what has gone wrong he wondered saying it is perhaps misunderstanding of the purpose of the programme. According to him the Nigerian government may one day call on the management of Afreximbank to a session to explain the details of the agreement to it. He said I sincerely hope will soon sign the agreement”.
Obasanjo said “the year 2018 should be regarded as most remarkable in Africa for the mere fact that during the year the continent moved from rhetorics to taking action on economic issues that affect the continent. The year he said saw the signing of the Africa open air, Free Trade and Intra Africa Trade Fair. These three steps were steps taken in the right direction. According to him, if in the past the continent leaders have been talking, we are beginning to see action being taken.
Africa he said has 1.2 billion population a huge buying power”. He said although “there are challenges having 55 countries with different policies, customs regime, currencies, passport, these can be overcome by share political will. He said the earlier the continent comes together to overcome these challenges, the better for it. He said that Africa countries needed to come together and formulate an energy policy for the continent that donors and development partners can buy into instead of allowing Europe, America and now China formulate an energy policy for the continent”. He said “without adequate power supply to power the private sector and the African economy, the continent can not increase production, not to talk of moving forward”. He said “Africa should have a uniform, an Africa energy programme that others can key into. Develop general infrastructure, have open sky, and have an Africa coastal shipping. If we have coastal shipping line, we can move goods and trading among African countries will move out of the current 18 per cent to about 30 per cent. Excerpt we move trade within the continent to about 50 per cent we have not started”.
On funding Obasanjo said “I use to feel that lack of finance is a hinderance but having moved around, I found there is over $12 trillion out there waiting to be tapped. You know money is cowardly, any slight threat it takes to flight. Imagine Africa getting $1 trillion of investment every year of that idle money out there, that will be a game changer. Africa needs to give confidence to that money out there and those holding the money, by that Africa will in no time be transformed and the world will be better for it” He said that Africa leaders have a lot to learn from Afreximbank which has harmonious transition and relationship with its past and present leadership.
He said that this year fair has set a high standard for which subsequent fairs will be evaluated. He said going forward those hosting the fair must show commitment and dedication displayed in the Cairo fair. The fair he said has enabled Africans to showcase goods and services available in the continent. He said through the fair, exhibitors could see, tough and even eat what were exhibited at the fair. He said “we have started, we have put our hands in the plough, we can only go forward. He said in 2020, “we will be able to evaluate, where we are. Take the infrastructure that has been done in Egypt should be replicated in other African countries recommending the the incoming Africa Union Chairman should take infrastructure as an agenda to canvass during his tenure. He also said leaders should cooperate with each others and learn from their successes. Continuity should be the watch ward”.