Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday said Nigeria would sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) once the government was satisfied that the full scope and consequences of the proposal make sense for the country.
Osinbajo said though there have been a lot of concerns about Nigeria’s cautious approach towards signing. The agreement presented real opportunity for Nigeria to expand its reach in trade, in commerce and services across Africa.
He said this at the opening ceremony and dinner of the 12th Annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) in Abuja, where he was special guest of honour.
“The theme of this conference, ‘Bringing Down the Barriers: The Law as a Vehicle for Intra-Africa Trade’, and its focus especially on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is very germane. The AfCFTA and its focus on trade in goods, trade in services and rules and procedures for settlement of disputes presents a real opportunity for Nigeria to expand its reach in trade, in commerce and services across Africa,” he said.
Osinbajo said Nigeria delayed the signing of the AfCFTA in order to hold further consultations with stakeholders to ensure the country benefits optimally from the agreement.
“Due to the prevalence of dumping on the continent and the potential for its escalation, one may argue that free trade in Africa may not necessarily be fair. Our vision for intra-Africa trade is for free movement of made-in-Africa goods – goods made by Africans using raw materials, not just free movement of goods,” Osinbajo said.
“Our decision to delay the signing of AfCTA and to extend consultations is to ensure that our participation does not adversely impact on the progress that we have made to date,” he added.
Osinbajo said Nigeria was very much a part of the conceptualization of the AfCFTA and emphasised that the country took seriously and would subscribe to the agreement “once we are satisfied that the full scope and consequences of the free trade proposal make sense for us and especially our commercial institutes”.
Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria, who was represented by Justice Kayode Ariwoola of the Court of Appeal, said the theme of the conference was timely, especially in light of the recent resolve by the African states to break the barriers to free movement of goods and services among the member states.
He said though Africa is the second largest continent in the world, the continent is quite small when viewed from the perspective of its economy, adding that commercial engagement between African countries would be crucial to enhancing economic growth and raising the standard of living for many on the continent.
“I must say that intra-Africa trade today is a panacea for development. It can help the African countries to become more competitive by creating economies of scale and encouraging producers to be more productive in the marketplace. It can establish and strengthen product value chains and facilitate, through spillover effect, the transfer of technology and knowledge and also spur infrastructure development and attract foreign direct investment.
“For these reasons, expanding intra-Africa trade is key accelerating economic growth on the continent. It is especially important for the continent’s small, land-locked countries that are faced with serious challenges,” he said.