Journalism of Courage

Presidential Panel recommends Nigeria joins Africa’s $3 trillion free-trade club

Nigeria will soon become the latest country to sign the  Africa Continental Free Trade Area ( AFCFTA) agreement as the Presidential Committee on Impact and Readiness Assessment Chaired by Desmond Obadiah, on Thursday recommended Nigeria to sign the treaty.

President Muhammadu Buhari received the committee’s report at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where he noted that the treaty will have positive and negative impacts on Nigeria and its neighbours.

The President said the recommendations will be considered in taking the next decision on AfCFTA.

According to him: “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. 

“The AfCFTA will have both positive and negative effects on us as a nation and on our region. 

“As Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, we cannot afford to rush into such agreements without full and proper consultation with all stakeholders.

“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. 

Per Second News gathered that the AfCFTA will give entrepreneurs across the continent access to a much larger market.

The treaty is to cover agreements on trade in goods, services, investment, and rules and procedures on dispute settlement, including a range of provisions to facilitate trade, reduce transaction costs, provide exceptions, flexibilities and safeguards for vulnerable groups and countries in challenging circumstances.

But Nigeria had withheld its signature to the agreement as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN) among other groups kicked against signing the treaty.

They had warned that signing the treaty was extremely dangerous to Nigeria as it would open the country’s seaports, airports and other businesses to unbridled foreign interference and domination.

Obadiah, said signing the treaty will be in the overall interest of Nigeria to sign the treaty.

He said that over 200 submissions were received by the 44-man steering committee. 

It’s envisioned that the free trade area will lead to increased competition, innovation and prosperity for Africa’s people in the long term, Per Second News learnt.  But for the AfCFTA’s gains to be realized, entrepreneurs and policy-makers must be aligned. They must engage with each other to provide structure and clarity around how goods and services will move, and around the benefits that the agreement will bring to business.

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