Nigeria backs off from Unified continent intra-trade pact

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari has taken a step back to rethink Nigeria’s involvement in the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement deal as he cancels his trip to Rwanda, where the pact is to be signed.

After three years of talks and months of championing the speedy establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area, President Buhari has backed off from signing a $3 trillion single unified African trade deal.

In 2012, African countries made the decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) to expand Intra-continental trade among the 54 Afrcan nations and boost global competitiveness at all levels in the continent.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari who cited the need for more time to get input from local businesses before he can sign the pact, cancelled his trip to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Nigeria together with South Africa makes up half of the African continent’s gross domestic product.

Early this month, Nigeria’s Labour Congress (NLC) opposed Nigeria being a signatory to the African CFTA saying signing the agreement was detrimental to the country’s economic interest and that the government did not consult the board widely on the matter and from the president’s statement, it appears he is heeding to the warnings of the NLC.

Buhari is not alone as Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni also called off his trip to neighbouring Rwanda. However, Trudi Hartzenberg, an executive director for Stellenbosch-based Trade Law Centre stated that “even if some don’t sign the deal yet, negotiations will continue.”

Currently, Intra-Africa trade is about 16 percent of the continent’s total and a single unified market promises to increase Intra-African trade of the 1.2 billion Africans with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion by almost 52.3 per cent.

After the Intra-continental trade deal is signed, all African Union (AU) countries involved would share in the welfare gains estimated to be about 2.64 per cent of the continental GDP of $65 billion in 2018. Also, the union would expand the size of Africa’s economy to $29 trillion by 2050 as estimated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.