By Gabriel Ewepu
As the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, takes off in 2021, the president of the Federation of Agricultural Products Associations of Nigeria, FACAN, Dr. Victor Iyama, has expressed his concern that without solving the precarious energy problem of the nation, she will be at a disadvantage in stiff competition from other African countries as she spoke on other prominent issues.
How prepared is FACAN for the AfCFTA take off?
We at FACAN are prepared for the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, for when it all starts, but the truth must be told as I told my members that we should be ready for some tough competition. Most of the things to come are things from foreign countries, and that’s the simple truth.
Are you saying that Nigerians are not equipped and ready for competition when it comes to the AfCFTA?
The main thing that will facilitate production is power. If there is no power and we operate with a generator, we are already at a great disadvantage. If we don’t fix that, we are just jokers because how do you rely on diesel and generator and think they can be price competitive? You cannot be competitive.
Do you mean that the power should be fixed immediately?
Of course! Then we can start talking about being able to compete, and without that we are just jokers. If I have to produce and sell to N10 and someone else is producing the same and selling to N5 or N6, how can I compete and they are both of the same quality?
What is your concern about Nigerians always sponsoring foreign products rather than “made in Nigeria”, especially now that Nigeria will compete with other countries under the AfCFTA?
To some extent it can but not in the long run, and you see that among those who are elites who talk about foreign goods are, and of course some Nigerians have a nap because of foreign things but with the closing of borders that has lowered a little ‘people now you are more health conscious and that is why chicken and other poultry products now realize that most of the chickens and turkeys they import are actually dangerous to their health, and they have realized that they are better to consume. their chickens live in Nigeria than those imported into the country across borders. I think to some extent the closing of the borders has created so much awareness that now they are starting to watch what they eat.
What we are insisting is that security should be in place at the borders and, if possible, we want to form a working group so that our members are also at those borders.
Is that feasible?
Of course, if you allow us. What I say is this because this is our own profession; we cannot accept bribes to kill our own profession. We are the ones who carry the shoe, and if some of us are allowed to go there, it will be of great help to check the excesses of Customs and other security agents.
We will know the type of people that we are going to put there and we will not commit ourselves, and we will not tell them when we will arrive, and this will help to clean up what the security agents are doing at the borders.
Did FACAN go ahead in taking off the AfCFTA?
We were taken in the process because I am there for the organization.