Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo has described President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to delay the ratification process of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as unfavourable to the country.
Obasanjo made this statement on Sunday at the closing session of the maiden edition of the 2018 Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) in Cairo, Egypt.
Obasanjo’s remarks on Buhari’s refusal to sign
The former president, who is also the chairman of the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) Advisory Council, said Nigeria is yet to sign the agreement, despite being a principal part of the final negotiations.
He expressed disappointment at the development saying “It is my sincere wish that Nigeria will be at the table before the AfCFTA comes into effect,”
“I went around the pavilions and the Nigerian pavilion was large. How can you be talking about the IATF when you are not part of the AfCFTA? You cannot absent yourself from what is the way for the rest of Africa.”
Why is AFCFTA important?
The former president described AfCFTA as an instrument of transformation capable of changing the structure of African trade.
With AfCFTA, he said, Africa would be able to say it no longer accepts the structure handed down by its colonial masters.
“One of the things I hope we will be able to get as quickly as possible is availability of visas-on-arrival, or a common visa for a number of countries. It hurts that those who want to trade within Africa need to have so many visas,” he noted
Obasanjo urged all African countries to ensure the quick ratification of the agreement, adding that its implementation and policies would facilitate and support intra-African trade.
Challenges posed by differing African Trade regulations
Obasanjo highlighted the challenges posed by differing trade regulations in different African countries, adding that Africa needs to get away from the regime of different regulations from country to country when either importing or exporting.
He said the trade agreement by African countries will eliminate trade barriers and help the continent get away as soon as possible, from regulations frustrating trade.
Stressing the need for concrete actions to tackle challenges impeding intra-African trade, the former president IATF as a bold step towards ratification of the trade agreement.
Which countries have signed the AFCFTA?
The AfCFTA draft was signed by 44 of the 54 member nations of the African Union during the 18th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Governments on March 21, 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.
The signatories included host country Rwanda, Niger, Angola, Central African Republic., Chad, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, The Gambia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Mozambique, Cote D’Ivoire, Seychelles, Algeria and Equatorial Guinea.
Others include Morocco, Swaziland, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, South Sudan, Uganda, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sao Tome and Principle, Togo and Tunisia and others.
Those that did not sign included Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Burundi, Eritrea, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia.
Why did the Nigerian Government refuse to sign?
During the Vice-Presidential debate which held on Saturday, Nigeria’s present Vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, explained why Nigeria is delaying its decision to sign the agreement.
He said there are loopholes that have to be fixed before such agreements can be reached, and Nigeria’s private sector-driven economy cannot be risked with such decisions.
He said; ”There’s a process of consultation which is going on with the private sector. Transhipment is something that occurs in such deals, where a nation will ship goods to another country, so they can be taken to another country which may kill the local industry. We have observed some loopholes and we are ensuring these loopholes are blocked.
“The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria rejected it. Ours is a private sector-driven economy and we are in a process of consultation which is going on with the private sector.”