Why Nigeria should consider free trade agreement ― AU

The African Union, Economic, Social and Cultural Council, (AU-ECOSOCC) on Thursday disclosed that Nigeria more than other member states, stand to benefit from the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement( AfCFTA) if signed.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is a trade agreement covering all 55 member states, with the goal of creating a single market followed by free movement and a single-currency union. The AfCFTA was signed in Kigali, Rwanda on 21 March 2018.

Nigeria, being Africa’s most populous country is yet to sign the agreement on reasons that this may undermine businesses of local manufacturers and entrepreneurs.

In 2018,  the Nigerian Labour Congress NLC, described the agreement as a “renewed, extremely dangerous and radioactive neo-liberal policy initiative”, suggesting that this would further pressurize the economic, where workers are subjected to undue hardships.

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NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, had said that probable outcome of the policy if given life, may have a crippling effect on local businesses and attendant effects on jobs.

“We have no doubt this policy initiative will spell the death knell of the Nigerian economy,” the NLC President submitted.

The Federal Government(FG) had, however, stressed the need for more domestic consultations before the country could sign the agreement.

However, during a collaborative meeting with the Controller General, Nigeria Custom, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, AU ECOSOCC, Nigeria representative

argued that signing of the Free Trade Agreement will place Nigeria at a better pedestal to negotiate its position properly, saying the further delay will not favour the country’s trade sector.

“We are commencing advocacy visit to strategic stakeholders to alleviate their fear because Nigeria is one of the biggest economy in Africa and when the ACFTA is signed.

“As it is now, 19 countries have signed and if three more countries append their signature, it becomes mandatory for Nigeria to key in as it will become effective once 22 countries signed, then the door of negotiation will be closed against Nigeria.

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“Then we will be forced to accept whatever comes our way, but now we can sign and join in the negotiation to protect our interest, or else Nigeria risk being participants only.”

Asaolu underscored the need for Nigeria to strengthen its trade within West Africa saying; “Now, Intra-African trade is low, just 14.2%. We need to strengthen the trade within West Africa and the whole continent as a whole, which is the core interest of the AU.”

He further disclosed that in view of this, the AU-ECOSOCC Nigeria, in partnership with the Nigeria Custom and other stakeholders will be hosting a national stakeholders dialogue in Abuja from 12-13 March 2018 to bring together private sector, civil society groups, academia, women groups and development actors in Nigeria, to strategize and plan on how to tap into the potential benefits of the AfCFTA.

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