Nigeria has joined the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as President Muhammadu Buhari fulfilled promise to sign the agreement after he accepted the recommendation of the panel established to assess implications of joining the free trade.
He signed the agreement on Sunday (7th July 2019) at the opening of the 12th Extra Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government in Niamey Niger Republic.
Buhari had last week promised he will sign the landmark African free trade agreement during the African Union meeting in Niger.
“Nigeria will sign the #AfCFTA Agreement at the upcoming Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Niamey, Niger,” the presidency said in a Tweet late Tuesday.
African leaders are meeting in Niamey. Nigeria had been a key backer of the plan to progressively reduce trade barriers on the continent since talks on the African Continental Free Trade Area got underway in 2002.
However it abruptly changed course shortly before the deal was signed last year following pressure from local unions and businesses fearful that they would be uncompetitive if trade barriers are dropped.
Last week, a special government panel formed to study the potential impact of joining AfCFTA, recommended that Buhari sign Nigeria up.
One of the key business mogul, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, President of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) commended the Federal Government on its decision to sign the AfCFTA.
“Nigeria signing the AfCFTA does not in any way expose it to any economic or social hazards.
“Hence it has adequate and all the necessary safeguards against smuggling, dumping and other risks or threats to the internal development of individual countries in the region,” he said.
Kayode, who is also the AU Trade Policy Ambassador and Vice President, Pan African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), said the Organised Private Sector (OPS) supported the agreement in view of its attendant benefits on Nigerian economy.
“I want to commend the Federal Government for the decision to sign this agreement as was pushed by myself, the OPS and recommended by the presidential committee.
“What is important to us in the OPS is the need to immediately log into the initiative.
“The AfCFTA is aimed at integrating the whole continent into the two billion population market this will expand,” he said.
Kayode said that the African Union’s Heads of States and Governments had resolved to establish AfCFTA to create a single continental market for goods and services in member nations.
According to him, the agreement covers trade in goods, services, investment, and rules and procedures on dispute settlement.
He explained that it included a range of provisions to facilitate trade, reduce transaction costs, provide exceptions, flexibilities and safeguards for vulnerable groups and countries in challenging circumstances.
“These are opportunities we can easily access. We don’t need to hesitate.
“The issues raised by the government that AfCFTA will not help the country because of infrastructure, fear of being an avenue for dumping of goods and leading to the death of local industries did not add up.
“These are challenges that we can easily surmount if we put our arts together. In any case, there are several instruments of negotiations in the agreement so we have to move along with the rest of the world.
“Nobody will wait for us. We are resilient, competitive and men of strong will. AfCFTA will tremendously expose our people to opportunities and lead to expansion of their businesses,’’ Kayode said.
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