Uche Usim, Abuja
Following the killings of many Nigerians in renewed xenophobic attacks in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa of that country, on Tuesday, said he was in Nigeria to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the disturbing situation which, he said, was capable of hurting the recently-signed Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).
The CFTA was aimed at deepening intra-African commerce.
Speaking at the opening of the 25th annual meetings of the African Export Import Bank (Afrexim Bank), President Ramaphosa said his administration realises the role safety and security play in boosting intra-African trade and commerce and as such had begun tackling xenophobic killings in order to guarantee sustained peace and progress on the continent.
The South African President also revealed that a robust continental security master plan exists at the African Union (AU) where a peace and security council was addressing the issues of security on the continent.
Said he, “It is tagged ‘silence the guns’ all in a bid to achieve security and safety. This Free Trade Agreement has derivatives and want to see how countries grow economically and see how the guns are silenced.
“We have safety of people and movement of goods etc that are fully captured in the CFTA.
“We need those who understand the nooks and crannies of the continent to handle the security architecture.
“For us in South Africa, we are now an oasis and it came with its own challenges.
It came with security challenges and people are being exposed to criminalities as a result of huge unemployment and all that and they reacted.
“In South Africa, everyone living in our midst is one of us. And should be safe.
“That is why I came on this visit with the Minister of Police Affairs and Defence. We will be discussing security matters with President Buhari. Nigeria played a big role in South Africa during the apartheid era and we also need to help Nigeria grow the economy”, he said.
On how to address the perennial infrastructure challenges in Africa, President Ramaphosa said there was need to encourage partnerships and get private sector to come in.
He continued, “They can also finance the whole project and then charge appropriate fees to recoup their investment.
“It’s no longer feasible for public sector alone to reach out and handle all these. All we need is to be innovative and not bugged down by high cost. You can opt for locally made things to build the infrastructure.
“You can use local materials and our local engineers are vital here. We need to be creative and innovative”, he stated.
He said the CFTA was a most welcome development, urging all nations to sign the agreement in view of the enormous potential inherent in it.
“The agreement is pregnant with opportunities and of course challenges. We can then trade more effectively with one another devoid of tariff and then increase demand for the goods produced and sold. People will see the need to be manufacturing goods since a close market exists.
“It will boost industrialisation and indeed, it presents the grandest opportunities to go behind politics and solve conflicts through trade.
“You can trade all you produce at good price. We will then improve infrastructure with ease and cost effective price. No need to crave for European goods” he explained.
In her remarks, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said Nigeria was yet to sign the CFTA because the government needed to carry out wide consultations with relevant stakeholders who hitherto expressed reservations about the agreement.
According to Adeosun, “We must consult. Nigeria is a federation of states and many diverse stakeholders. We’re concluding that consultation now and it involves various groups, manufacturers, employers, etc. It’s a great move and we must be in a hurry to get things right and not get things wrong,” she stated.