President Muhammadu Buhari has received the report of the committee to assess the impact and readiness for Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) and differed with the recommendations with the explanation that Nigeria could not sign the deal now.
As Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, he said Nigeria could not afford to rush into such agreements without full and proper consultation with all stakeholders.
The AfCFTA has received the blessing of 24 countries, enough number to kick start its implementation since May 31, 2019.
But Nigeria has consistently refused to endorse the policy because it had not received green light of the private sector, the main drivers of the trade.
Receiving the report in Abuja on Thursday, Buhari said: “The AfCFTA will have both positive and negative effects on us as a nation and on our region.’’
“Let me state unequivocally that trade is important for us as a nation and to all nations. Economic progress is what makes the world go around.
“Our position is very simple, we support free trade as long as it is fair and conducted on an equitable basis.
“As you mentioned in your report, intra-African trade is only 14% of Africa’s total trade. Our consumption is mostly of goods imported from outside the continent.
“For AfCFTA to succeed, we must develop policies that promote African production, among other benefits.
“Africa, therefore, needs not only a trade policy but also a continental manufacturing agenda. Our vision for intra-African trade is for the free movement of “made in Africa goods.
“That is, goods and services made locally with dominant African content in terms of raw materials and value addition.
If we allow unbridled imports to continue, it will dominate our trade. The implication of this, is that coastal importing nations will prosper while landlocked nations will continue to suffer and depend on aid.
As I stated during the inauguration of this Committee, many of the challenges we face today, whether security, economic or corruption are rooted in our inability, over the years, to domesticate the production of the most basic requirements and create jobs for our very vibrant, young and dynamic population.
Henceforth, we shall ensure that our negotiated agreements create business opportunities for Africa’s manufacturers, service providers and innovators.
The AfCFTA we aspire to have should therefore not only create wealth for investors but also jobs and prosperity for our vibrant and hardworking citizens. The benefits of economic growth must be prosperity for the masses.
It has been over a year now since the African Union Heads of States adopted the Phase I Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at its 10th Extraordinary Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, on 21st of March 2018.
Since then, a lot has been said about Nigeria’s decision to conduct a detailed study on how this agreement will impact us as a country.
I am very delighted to receive your report today and with the time spent, skills applied and energy invested, I am confident that the Committee has been thorough and diligent.
Let me assure you that your report will form part of the consideration in our decision on the next steps on the AfCFTA in particular and on broader trade integration subjects.
Submitting the report, the chairman of the committee, Mr Desmond Guobadia, disclosed that the Committee reviewed over 200 submissions from various stakeholders across the country including farmers, bankers, manufacturers, government agencies and development partners.
He said the committee recommended that Nigeria should consider joining the AfCFTA and using the opportunity of the ongoing AfCFTA Phase I negotiations to secure the necessary safeguards required to ensure that the nation domestic policies and programmes are not compromised.
According to him, the AfCFTA provides immense opportunities for Nigeria’s manufacturing and service companies to expand to Africa.
“Today, many Nigerian companies have developed capacity in some of these sectors and have long desired to expand to Africa but have been constrained by trade barriers which AfCFTA is expected to remove,’’ he added.
The Committee on the Impact and Readiness Assessment of the AfCFTA was inaugurated by President Buhari on Oct. 22, 2018, to independently assess the benefits and risks of the AfCFTA to Nigeria and to propose short, medium and long-term measures to manage them.
The mandate of the Committee was to review and assess: the potential impact of the AfCFTA on Nigeria’s national development plans, fiscal and monetary policies;
“The effects of smuggling, dumping and predatory practices; the implications for intra-Africa trade patterns, legacy bilateral and multilateral trade agreements; the implications of associated free movement of persons on national security;
“Nigeria’s trade capacity, infrastructure and operating environment in order to establish our readiness as a country for the AfCFTA and identification of policies and programmes to address any observed gaps.’’