Cautious Nigeria agrees to sign African continental free-trade agreement
Abuja — Nigeria would soon sign up to an African continental free-trade agreement, President Muhammadu Buhari said.
Buhari made the comment on Wednesday at a media conference during a visit by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The agreement was signed by 44 countries in March, with SA joining earlier in July.
Before leaving Nigeria for the Middle East on Wednesday Ramaphosa urged the Nigerians to join the free-trade agreement.
Ramaphosa said Nigeria should take its time to consult on the agreement before signing up, but shouldn’t "take too long".
"The continent is waiting for Nigeria and SA.
"By trading among ourselves, we are able to retain more resources in the continent," he said in Abuja on Wednesday.
At a joint media conference with Ramaphosa later in the day, Buhari said Nigeria was careful about signing the trade deal to avoid hurting its young industries. "I will soon sign it," he said.
Talks to establish the African Continental Free-Trade Area (AfCFTA) with a combined GDP of more than $3-trillion started in 2015, and in May Ghana and Kenya became the first countries to ratify the deal. Ramaphosa signed the agreement in Mauritania last week. SA would ratify it "soon", he said.
The AfCFTA is a project that is driven by the AU to eliminate tariffs on intra-Africa trade of goods and services and create a single continental market with free movement of businesspeople. It will only become effective once the parliaments of at least 22 members ratify it.
Nigeria could not rush signing the deal because it does not want to get things wrong, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said at the conference. Her government was talking to stakeholders, including manufacturers, she said. Ramaphosa and Adeosun were speaking at the African Export-Import Bank’s annual meeting being held in Abuja this week.
A free-trade area for the continent, if implemented according to schedule, could increase intra-Africa trade by at least half by 2022, a report by the African Export-Import Bank reads.