Following the historic accession of Nigeria to the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement in July, LADOL MD and CEO, Dr. Amy Jadesimi speaks to Financial Times about what this means for Nigerian and African Trade, and how this agreement must work to benefit the people and economies of African nations.
The deal is an important milestone for Africa and our CEO Amy Jadesimi presents her insightful view on the need for a continental-focused solution designed to make the trade agreement a mechanism for tangible economic growth focusing on local industrialization, job creation and development.
Below is her thought she shared with FT Neil Mushi
After more than a year of delay, Nigeria last month signed a continent-wide trade
agreement, supercharging a pact that supporters believe could transform business
As Africa’s largest economy, most-populous country, biggest crude producer and
cultural powerhouse, Nigeria has long been seen as essential to any pan-African deal,
which has had broad support among business leaders across the continent. But
President Muhammadu Buhari, a protectionist at heart, heeded calls from his
country’s labour and manufacturing trade groups to study the deal’s effects before
Amy Jadesimi is one of the few among Lagos’s business elite to support Mr Buhari’s
deliberative approach because, she says, of how important the deal is.
“We need a continental-focused solution that is developed by the [African Union], and
targets making the trade agreement a mechanism for local industrialisation,” says Ms
Jadesimi, managing director of Ladol, a Lagos-based industrial free zone.
“That should be the aim of this trade agreement, rather than just something broad and
high level about economic growth or prosperity — those things won’t come if,
underlying all of this, we do not create jobs and lift our economies through
industrialisation,” she adds.
Supporters argue that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has the
potential to spur economic growth in a bloc of nations with a combined gross domestic
product of more than $3tn, creating the world’s largest free trade zone.
But major challenges remain, and sceptics such as Ms Jadesimi argue that any pact
must offer incentives to boost African manufacturing or it will fail — an outcome that
could turn the continent into a dumping ground for cheap Chinese, US or European
“Are we going to create an entirely new paradigm for trade, that is Africa-centric, that
is controlled by African countries, and that disincentivises foreign companies and
countries outside of the continent from importing — are we going to do that?” she
asks. “That’s going to be really tricky.”
The African Union summit in Niger in July was a landmark moment for the pact
whose roots stretch back decades. Although the deal officially came into force on May
30, the implementation of any final agreement is at least three years away and
specifics on everything from rules of origin to intellectual property must be agreed
between a diverse group of largely fragmented economies.
The agreement must also contend with a history of regional trade agreements that
have largely flopped and done little to bolster trade integration — the AfCFTA will
need to be harmonised with eight such regional pacts.
Beyond the issue of whether the costs of an open market outweigh the benefits to
specific countries, there is also the question of whether it is possible for Africa to overcome its structural challenges to trade.
The agreement aims to remove 90 per cent of tariffs to create a single market with free
movement of goods and services. However, sceptics question how under-resourced
governments — newly deprived of that tariff revenue — will be able to afford to upgrade
LADOL, is the largest private indigenous free zone in Nigeria and a strategic special economic zone, built in a secure island, inside the Port of Lagos. LADOL has proven it is the ideal location in which to execute the largest global industrial projects. Local and international companies can engineer, manufacturer and train in this safe sustainable ecosystem. LADOL will create 50,000 direct and indirect jobs across a range of industries. Having halved the cost of petroleum sector service provision and positively disrupted this sector, the developers are focused on creating a circular economy within the Zone and attracting non-petroleum sector companies into the Zone, starting with agriculture and technology.
About Dr. Jadesimi
Dr Amy Jadesimi (MBA from Stanford University, MA (OXON) and BMBCh from Oxford University) is the CEO of LADOL, a $500 million Industrial Free Zone. Amy was a Commissioner for Business & Sustainable Development Commission. Amy got financial