Nige­ria’s ab­sten­tion from the CFTA agree­ment was no mis­take

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - African lead­ers in Rwan­dan af­ter the sign­ing of the African Con­ti­nen­tal Free Trade Area agree­ment

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

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