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African Countries Have Signed a Continental Free Trade Area Deal But Nigeria Backed Out

Eleven countries, including Nigeria — the continent’s most populous country and its largest economy — did not sign the deal. Nigeria’s president skipped the summit, citing opposition from national trade unions and for a better wider consultation.

African countries would no longer serve as a place where the powerhouse economies of the West and East come to get their raw materials. Very soon, you will be free to travel to Forty-four African countries as an African and not be delayed at the border to clear non-tariff barriers. Goods, services and perhaps labour, will begin to flow freely in and out of these African countries to create thousands of jobs among Africa’s youth population.

Forty-four African countries on Wednesday is making that a reality by signing up to create a free trade agreement within 18 months to boost meager intra-continental trade. The agreement, known as the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), was signed at an African Union (AU) summit in the Rwandan capital Kigali and will, if implemented, be the world’s largest free trade zone in terms of member countries.

The deal would create the largest free trade zone in the world by participating countries. The African Union has said businesses currently pay more to export to other African countries compared to outside the continent.

“Our peoples, our business community and our youth in particular cannot wait any longer to see the lifting of the barriers that divide our continent, hinder its economic takeoff and perpetuate misery,” AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said.

Eleven countries, including Nigeria — the continent’s most populous country and its largest economy — did not sign the deal. Nigeria’s president skipped the summit, citing opposition from national trade unions and for a better wider consultation. AU Trade Commissioner Albert Muchanga told Reuters news agency he thought Nigeria would come around to signing the agreement.

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“They are still doing national-level consultations and so when they finish they will be able to come on board,” he said.

Trade between AU members stands at a relatively low 15 percent of the bloc’s total commerce and has been cited as a factor for the continent’s enduring poverty. Average tariffs across the continent stand at 6.1 percent, according to the AU. The bloc has said African businesses pay a higher premium when they export to other African countries compared to when the export to outside of the continent. But if all 55 AU members eventually sign up, the deal will encompass 1.2 billion people and create a bloc with a cumulative GDP of $2.5 trillion (€2 trillion)

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Henry I. Ugwu

Written by Henry I. Ugwu

Henry I. Ugwu is a writer, opinion journalist, media scholar, social media strategist and crisis management expert.

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