President Muhammadu Buhari has made an about turn regarding the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) act. The President expressed his willingness to sign the act while receiving his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa.
“I am very careful about what I sign, whether it is my cheque book or agreements especially when it involves nation states. I didn’t read it fast enough before my officials saw that it was all right for signature. I kept it on my table. I will soon sign it.”
In addition, he also stated that he had been hesitant in signing the law, so as to protect infant industries in the country.
“We are so populated and have so many young unemployed citizens and our industries are just coming up. So, in trying to guarantee employment, goods and services in our country, we have to be careful with agreements that will compete, maybe successfully, against our upcoming industries.”
Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun during the opening session of the Africa Export-Import bank (AFREXIM) Annual Meeting in Abuja had stated that the President had withheld his signature to enable widespread consultation.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) in March this year, approved the signing of the Act, but the President at the last minute declined to attend the African Union (AU) meeting in Kigali, Rwanda where this was to take place. 44 countries of the 55 that make up the AU have signed.
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) had also expressed opposition to the agreement, as the issues that they had were not adequately addressed.
Objectives of the AFCFTA
The objectives of the Act include:
- To create a single Market for Goods, Services, and Movement of Persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African Continent.
- Create a liberalised market for goods and services through successive rounds of negotiations, contribute to the movement of capital and natural persons and facilitate investments building on the initiatives and developments in the State Parties and RECs.
- Lay the foundations for the establishment, at a later stage, a Continental Customs Union.
- Promote and attain sustainable and inclusive social and economic development and structural transformation of the State Parties.
- Enhance the competitiveness of the economies of State Parties within the continent and at the global market.
- Promote industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, Agricultural Development and Food Security.
- Resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.