Auwal Rafsanjani, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), says small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) remain critical constituents of Nigeria economy. Rafsanjani disclosed this at a stakeholders’ sensitisation and consultation on the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement in Lagos. The sensitisation and consultation was in conjunction with Oxfam, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) and CISLAC. He said it was worthy of note that SMEs are the backbone of many developing economies. According to him, they are important contributors to employment, output growth and trade expansion. “On Jan. 1, 2021, the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA) commenced after it came into force on May 30, 2019. “This represented the biggest global trade area with a market of 1.2 billion people and a projected cumulative GDP of 3.4 trillion dollars since the creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995.
“Its primary objective is to deepen African economic integration through a single market for goods and services and promote industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development. “Ultimately, it aimed at providing great opportunities to enhance industrialisation in Africa by removing tariffs on and other barriers to trade, goods and services as well as increase intra-African investment outcomes. “While AfCFTA has great potential to support economic development on the continent, some enterprises may not be able to take advantage of the agreement.
“Or compete with an influx of new competitors from other countries within the free trade area, because of internal inefficiencies within businesses or suboptimal business environments. “These potential challenges for businesses sparked some opposition to the Af- CFTA in Nigeria and led Nigeria to be the one of the last countries to sign the agreement on July 9, 2019,” Rafsanjani said. Quoting the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), he said that SMEs in Nigeria, accounts for about 96 per cent of registered Nigerian businesses.