• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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Nigeria joins AfCFTA as Buhari signs trade deal


Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has finally signed the long-awaited African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

Buhari signed the deal at 10.49am at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on AfCFTA, on Sunday in Niamey, Niger Republic.

Buhari had refused to sign the AfCFTA since 2018 owing to protests by manufacturers who believe it would harm the sector.

But Buhari last week accepted the position of a committee he inaugurated on the trade deal, who wanted Nigeria to join the trade treaty.

AfCFTA seeks to liberalise trade among African countries. It is targeted at a ‘borderless’ Africa, with an eye on a single market for goods and services on the continent.

Experts believe it is easily the largest trade agreement since the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1994 and a flagship project of Africa’s Agenda 2063, targeted at creating a single market for 1.2 billion people and exposing each country to a $3.4 trillion market opportunity on the continent.

The AfCFTA is expected to raise Africa’s nominal GDP to $6.7 trillion by 2030, if all the countries sign up.

The treaty liberalises 90 percent of products manufactured in Africa, meaning that a country can only protect 10 percent of its local industries.

The AfCFTA officially came into force on May 30, 2019, when the required number of ratifications were deposited, making the agreement a binding international legal instrument.
The Gambia had the two months ago completed the number of countries ratifying the trade agreement to 22. South Africa, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Burundi, Namibia, Guinea Bissau, and Botswana, among others, had earlier signed up.

Iyalode Alaba Lawson, national president of NACCIMA, said recently in Lagos that the body was in full support of Nigeria signing up to AfCFTA, adding, however, that government needed to intensify current efforts to eradicate non-tariff and regulatory barriers to international trade such as border delays, burdensome customs and inspection procedures, as well as ensure that multiple licensing and taxes were eliminated.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) supports the trade deal but canvasses an enabling environment that will enable Nigerian manufacturers to compete.

This is just as Accra, the capital of Ghana, was selected to host the secretariat of the AFCFTA.
Twenty-four countries have already ratified the AfCFTA, which is expected to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation with a potential market of 1.2 billion people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2 5 trillion, across all 55 member states of the African Union.

The President signed the agreement at exactly 10.48 am local time, at the opening of the 12th Extra Ordinary Summit of the African Union on launch of the Operational Phase of the AfCFTA.
Buhari speaking after signing the agreement told the Summit that Nigeria would build on the event by proceeding expeditiously with the ratification of the AfCFTA.

President Buhari declared that Nigeria’s commitment to trade and African integration had never been in doubt nor was it ever under threat.

‘‘Nigeria wishes to emphasize that free trade must also be fair trade.

‘‘As African leaders, our attention should now focus on implementing the AfCFTA in a way that develops our economies and creates jobs for our young, dynamic and hardworking population,” he said.

He said Nigeria would sustain its strong leadership role in Africa, in the implementation of the AfCFTA, adding that: “We shall also continue to engage constructively with all African countries to build the Africa that we want.’’

The Nigerian leader also congratulated Ghana on being selected to host the Secretariat of the AfCFTA.

‘‘I have just had the honour of signing the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), on behalf of my country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

‘‘This is coming over a year since the AfCFTA Agreement was opened for signature in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union, on 21st March 2018.

‘‘In fact, you will recall that the treaty establishing the African Economic Community was signed in Abuja in 1991.

‘‘We fully understand the potential of the AfCFTA to transform trade in Africa and contribute towards solving some of the continent’s challenges, whether security, economic or corruption.

‘‘But it is also clear to us that for AfCFTA to succeed, we need the full support and buy-in of our private sector and civil society stakeholders and the public in general.

‘‘It is against this background that we embarked on an extensive nationwide consultation and sensitisation programme of our domestic stakeholders on the AfCFTA.

‘‘Our consultations and assessments reaffirmed that the AfCFTA can be a platform for African manufacturers of goods and providers of service to construct regional value chains for made-in-Africa goods and services.

‘‘It was also obvious that we have a lot of work to do to prepare our nation to achieve our vision for intra-African trade which is the free movement of ‘made in Africa goods’.“

Buhari who also stated that some of the critical challenges identified would require a collective action as a Union, adding, “We will be presenting them for consideration at the appropriate AfCFTA fora.”

He listed the challenges to include “tackling injurious trade practices by third parties and attracting the investment we need to grow local manufacturing and service capacities.’’

President Buhari noted that Nigeria’s signing of the AfCFTA and its Operational Launch at the 12th Extraordinary Summit was an additional major step forward on the AU’s Agenda 2063.

Buhari had delayed in signing the agreement, which entered into force May 30, 2019 to give room for extensive consultations with stakeholders, culminating in the submission of the report by the Presidential Committee to Assess Impact and Readiness of Nigeria to join the free trade area.

The committee had recommended that Nigeria should sign the agreement, which aims to boost intra-African trade.

President Muhammadu Buhari is currently attending the Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union where the continent will launch the operational instruments of the Agreement establishing AfCFTA.

The instruments include: AfCFTA Rules of Origin, Tariff Concession Portals, Portal on Monitoring and Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers, Digital Payments and Clearing Systems and African Trade and Observatory Dashboard.

Recall that President Buhari had delayed signing the documents until his administration had embarked on extensive consultations with stakeholders, culminating in the submission of the report by the Presidential Committee to Assess Impact and Readiness of Nigeria to join the AfCFTA.

The committee had recommended that Nigeria should sign the agreement, which aims to boost intra-African trade.

President Buhari appended his signature to the treaty in the presence of African Heads of State and Government, delegates and representatives from the private sector, civil society and the media attending the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union on Launch of the Operational Phase of the AfCFTA.


Odinaka Anudu & Tony Ailemen, Abuja