Nigeria former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Sunday, urged African leaders to make COVID-19 pandemic as an impetus and not hindrance to the full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Obasanjo warned African countries not to allow agric-business and manufacturing sectors to degenerate in the face of COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the delay of the full implementation of AfCFTA occasioned by the outbreak of the pandemic should give leaders “an opportunity to do the extra hard work that requires some time so that when we eventually go into operation, we are battle-ready, and do so in full force.”
Obasanjo in a statement by his Media Aide, Kehinde Akinyemi on Sunday, in Abeokuta, was quoted to have spoken when he featured in this week’s issue of ACCORD 2021 series of the COVID-19 Conflict and Resilience Monitor.
The former president made a case for Africa’s self-resilience and finding home-grown solutions for the continent to bounce back from the socio-economic devastations caused by COVID-19.
He said, “When looking at trade, it is important to be clear in our understanding that COVID-19 has only delayed, but not derailed, the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area. We must desist from the view that the AfCFTA is now off-track due to COVID-19. This is especially so because the necessary arrangements including the setting up of the Secretariat and the appointment of key officials have been done.
“However, we must be mindful of, and appreciate the fact that some aspects relating to the full operationalisation of AfCFTA require physical contacts, which cannot happen at this stage because of the measures put in place to deal with COVID-19.
“While it is true that COVID-19 has opened up opportunities to use online platforms and modern technologies to communicate, when we are talking about matters of trade and movement of goods, there is a limit to what you can do. COVID-19 measures have put some restrictions on movement of goods and people, on physical and personal contact, and these have affected business transactions.
“These barriers were put in place in order to make sure that there is no transmission of people who are affected and who may carry COVID-19 from one place to another. I also believe that, at times, delays may even allow you to be extra careful and therefore better prepared when you are launching something like the AfCFTA.”