Nigeria’s abstention from the CFTA agreement was no mistake
In January 2012, during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a decision was adopted to establish the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by an indicative date of 2017. The AU also endorsed the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT). The BIAT was designed to provide a comprehensive framework to pursue a developmental regionalism strategy and double intraAfrica trade flows between January 2012 and January 2022, according to the AU.
On March 21, 2018, 44 African leaders signed an agreement to create the CFTA following several years of negotiations. Nigeria and South Africa – Africa's biggest economies – along with eight other African nations did not sign up to the trade bloc. These abstentions effectively diminished the impact of the CFTA, which was intended to bring together 54 African countries with a total population of over 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $3.4 trillion.
Part of the main objectives of the CFTA is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of persons and investments. The trade bloc is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.
Why then did Nigeria, which was at the forefront of the negotiations and establishment of the CFTA, refuse to sign up? According to President Muhammadu Buhari, the country wants to “widen and deepen domestic consultations, to ensure all concerns were addressed, as it would not sign any agreement that would not fairly and equitably represent the interest of Nigeria and indeed, her African brothers and sisters.” Although the president has taken flak for his decision not to sign the trade agreement, he made the right call, in my view, not to commit the country to the CFTA.
As he further explained correctly, "We will not agree to anything that will undermine local manufacturers and entrepreneurs, or that may lead to Nigeria becoming a dumping ground for finished