Nigeria’s President Muhammad Buhari on Sunday finally signed the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
He signed the deal at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on AfCFTA and the First Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities in Niamey, Niger.
Nigeria has now become the 53rd county in Africa to sign the AfCFTA agreement.
Initially only 44 African leaders out of 55 agreed to the world’s largest free trade area at a gathering in Rwanda in March 2018.
Countries like Nigeria and Uganda decided not to join asking for time to engage in broader consultations.
The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari at the time defended his country’s decision not to sign the trade deal just yet despite participating in earlier discussions.
Change of mind
At the time Buhari said “that the Economic and security implications of Nigeria signing the
#AfCFTA Agreement need to be FURTHER discussed. This is a far-reaching decision that requires the widest possible consultations amongst all stakeholders.”
But on July 3 the Nigerian Presidency said in a statement that “Nigeria will sign the
#AfCFTAAgreement at the upcoming Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Niamey, Niger.”
“Nigeria is signing the
#AfCFTA Agreement after extensive domestic consultations, and is focused on taking advantage of ongoing negotiations to secure the necessary safeguards against smuggling, dumping and other risks/threats,” the statement added.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) with 55 African Union (AU) members would mean the African Union would have a cumulative gross domestic product of US$2.5 trillion.
African countries only do about 16 per cent of their business with each other with the African Union hoping to change this trend.
The CFTA is a major project of the AU’s long-term development plan Agenda 2063, which emphasis the need to ease trade and travel across the continent.
The latest deal could create thousands of jobs for the continent’s jobless youth.