The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) is a free trade agreement among 54 out of 55 African countries, targeted at creating a single and more formidable market for goods and services as well as a single CustomS union for free movement of persons and capital. Member countries involved in the pact seem to be the largest bloc in terms of number of participating nations even against any other organization like the World Trade Organization.
This agreement came into force on May 30, 2019, following the ratification by 22 out of the signatory states, and it entered its operational phase following the heads of government summit in July 2019 in Niamey, the capital of Niger Republic.
Unarguably, strong evidence abound that contemporary continental cooperation can influence both the context and quality of transnational policy making, ranging from economic development, social affairs, trade, health, education, to peace and security.
To this effect, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement is a laudable development pact for continental integration, paving the way for better trade and development.
Furthermore, the agreement seeks to create a single market platform for all member states in order to promote trade and commerce among them. This trade facilitation will also ensure the path toward enabling industrialization of the continent.
Therefore, AFCFTA is expected to help in pushing for considerable trade on the continent, even though some believe that this initiative may end up in favour of rich and advantageous African countries against the poor ones. However, analysts observe that it as an avenue for encouraging competition among member state.
This also will give African youth economic opportunities they deserve reinforce professionals and enhance educating mobility of its work force, thereby creating an estimated 1.2billion market force in the continent.
Consequently, AFCFTA has an important part to play in Africa’s development drive, through contributing to its income generation, structural transformation, job creation and improvement in security.
Few months down the line after Nigeria signed this agreement, it closed its land borders. This has generated debates, even though border closure is not new in Africa.
The closure of Nigerian borders, according to the Federal Government, is to check smuggling, stimulate local production as well as for security reasons; but those who argue against the decision insist that the Nigerian border closure goes against the spirit of AFCFTA, describing the policy as ill-timed and detrimental to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Could Nigeria’s decision be a mockery of AFCFTA agreement? Godwin Emefiele, the Central Bank governor, said the border closure is a means of rejuvenating Nigeria’s economy and creating employment opportunities, stressing that there has been an “astronomical growth” and the number of rice farmers and local production of the commodity has increased “exponentially”.
Although the border closure seems to run against the principal objectives of the AFCFTA, Nigerian government needs to demonstrate the political will to resolve issues that led to border closure through dialogue.
Aruwan Enoch Peter,