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Boosting Northern Nigeria’s economy through AfCFTA (II)

How will this historic agreement benefit the region by focusing on key economic sectors: agriculture, mining and textiles?  The agricultural sector in Northern Nigeria offers…

How will this historic agreement benefit the region by focusing on key economic sectors: agriculture, mining and textiles? 

The agricultural sector in Northern Nigeria offers vast opportunities for growth and development, thanks to its favourable climate and abundant arable land. With Nigeria’s commitment to the AfCFTA, the region is well-positioned to tap into a market that spans 53 African countries, with a potential consumer base of nearly 1.3 billion people. The goal is to boost local production, foster regional value chains, and actively participate in intra-African trade. 

Recent government policies aimed at promoting local production and private-sector participation have led to significant growth in the agricultural sector, particularly in the production of rice. Northern Nigeria, with its fertile plains and favourable climate, is a major contributor to the country’s rice production and stands to benefit significantly from the AfCFTA. 

With abundant arable land and fertile soil, the Northern region can use the AfCFTA to enhance food security both domestically and across Africa. Despite having vast arable land, Africa currently spends around $35 billion on food imports. Northern Nigeria is well-suited to intensify agriculture and export key commodity crops, contributing positively to the regional value chain. 

The region’s ecology is conducive to livestock farming, which presents significant growth potential. Although domestic demand exceeds supply due to challenges, the livestock sector can be developed to meet the growing demand for livestock products. 

Inland fish production is another untapped opportunity in Northern Nigeria. Despite not being a coastal region, it boasts several inland water bodies and wetlands suitable for fish production. The AfCFTA can facilitate the export of fish products from the Northern region to other African countries. 

The mining sector in Northern Nigeria, rich in natural resources like gold, limestone, coal, gemstones, and copper, is poised for growth under the AfCFTA. By emphasizing value addition to these resources before exportation, foreign and domestic investment in mining can be enhanced. For instance, the establishment of jewellery industries to utilize gold and gemstones found in the region can create new opportunities and revenue streams. 

The textile industry, once a major player in Northern Nigeria, has faced challenges and decline in recent decades. However, there is still immense potential for its revival under the AfCFTA. Historically, the textile industry has been a significant employer in the region, particularly for women, both in production and retail. The AfCFTA presents an opportunity for these women to play a more active role in the textile sector, expanding their reach through avenues like social media. 

However, the principle of rules of origin, a key feature of the AfCFTA, poses a challenge for the textile industry in Northern Nigeria. The agreement requires that exported goods must be produced and manufactured in a signatory country, which hinders the export of imported textile products dominating the Nigerian market. 

To unlock the textile sector’s potential in Northern Nigeria, the region must shift focus from importing textile products to establishing domestic textile mills. By producing textiles locally, Northern Nigeria can fully participate in the AfCFTA and capitalize on the opportunities it offers. The revival of the textile industry has the potential to boost local manufacturing, create jobs, and position Nigeria as a significant producer and exporter of textiles in the region and beyond. 

As Northern Nigeria seeks to harness the benefits of the AfCFTA, it must address various challenges, including inadequate infrastructure, unreliable power supply, and security concerns. Improving these aspects is vital for facilitating trade, production, and overall economic growth, primarily the responsibility of the federal government and the governors of the 19 northern states. 

Infrastructure development and accountability for public officials should be top priorities. New administrations following the 2023 elections provide an opportunity for citizens to demand better performance in addressing infrastructure and security concerns. Social media as well as conventional news outlets can be a channel for communication with elected officials to articulate expectations and hold them accountable for their promises and actions. 

If harnessed effectively, the AfCFTA offers an unparalleled opportunity for Northern Nigeria to stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and establish itself as a significant player in agriculture, mining, and textiles on the African continent. Challenges can be overcome through concerted efforts and strategic planning, turning obstacles into stepping stones for progress and prosperity. As we continue our journey to make the AfCFTA work for Northern Nigeria, it is imperative to seize this golden opportunity and work collectively to bring about positive change for the region and the continent as a whole. 

Gambo works at the National Industrial Court and she can be reached at [email protected] 

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