Africa’s most industrialized nation, South Africa has finally signed the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement with the African Union. This comes three months after 44 other countries first signed the agreement during the 10th ordinary session held in Kigali in Rwanda.
By signing this agreement South Africa has left Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria to join the league of African countries that are open to trading with other African nations. It would be recalled that when the agreement was first signed Nigeria and South Africa which are Africa’s big economies said they wouldn’t sign the deal. The president of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa said that he needed to consult at home, to consult in Cabinet, to consult the partners at the National Economic Development and Labour Council and finally to consult Parliamentarians because the country was going through a cleaning up process to ensure everyone is on board. While the president of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari said that Nigeria will not sign the deal and that the trade agreement must fairly and equitably represent the interest of Nigeria and her African brothers.
The other African countries that did not sign the trade deal as at then apart from Nigeria and South Africa were Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau. However, according to reports Namibia, Sierra Leone, Lesotho and Burundi have finally signed the agreement.
The unified Continental Free Trade Agreement that will pave way for a liberalized market for goods and services across the continent. It will also help expand intra-continental trade and boost global competitiveness.
According to experts, the agreement would help reduce tariffs and benefit entrepreneurs, which includes small and medium businesses. It will be an opportunity for entrepreneurs from African countries to start working together with each other in a trade tariff-free environment. However standard measures need to be put in place to ensure that the products are of good quality.
The agreement also comes at a time when there has been an increased risk of a full-scale trade war by US President Donald Trump imposing heavy duties on imported products.