ABUJA – The African Development Bank (AfDB) said that Nigeria was the West African’s largest market with great potential to be a main driver of regional integration considering its population.
This is contained in the West African Mid-Term Review and Regional Portfolio Performance Review Paper 2011 – 2015, obtained .
According to the report, with the GDP rebasing, Nigeria now has the largest economy in Africa and a great potential for its services and manufacturing sectors.
It said the country also attracted half of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) coming into the region with about 45 per cent in 2012.
“Nevertheless its intra-regional trade has been steadily decreasing, now constituting less than one per cent of the country’s total imports and three per cent of its export.
“Informal trade networks however are significantly larger, most notably for agricultural goods, petroleum products, and re-export trade.
“On the investment side, the role of Nigeria is certainly more prominent, with various Nigerian companies having significant impact in the regional market particularly banking services,” it said.
The report stated that goods such as cement, cassava flour and other goods from Nigerian companies served the needs of their client across West Africa.
It said that closer integration with the region would require Nigeria to open its markets to regional exports, adding there was need for a change of perspective on the neighboring countries.
According to the report, it is more crucial for the country to treat its regional neighbours more as partners rather than merely clients.
“Regional value chains have a real potential, particularly given the developments in regional transport and connectivity infrastructure.
“Increasing trade volumes will require improvements in regional corridors reducing frictions related to non tariff barriers, as well as accountability and transparency in regulations, both on the national and on the regional level,” it said.
The report identified poor cross-border trade and infrastructure, as well as the weaknesses of human capacity and national and regional institutions as some of the challenges of regional integration.
It added that fragmentation of the region’s market, multiplicity of integration architecture and insufficient involvement of private sector and civil society in integration effort were also part of the challenges.
According to the report, illegal checkpoints, long and non-harmonised customs procedures, smuggling and corruption are important obstacles to the free movement of goods and people.
“Improving trade facilitation in ECOWAS is vital to boosting the region’s trade performance, both with regards to intra-regional trade as well as exports globally.
“New waves of FDIs and the emergence of a middle class in the region are leading to the emergence of a vibrant private sector operating across countries.
“This can continue to serve as a natural catalyst for closer collaboration and integration towards the development of regional and global value chains,” it said.
The report said that building regional value chains in West Africa, in areas such as agro processing, would help support the efforts in better linking regional markets.
“While the region is the world’s largest producer of cocoa beans, 90 per cent of the crop is exported raw or roasted, packaged and sent to the United States or Europe.
“This denies Africa of the most profitable part of the