Nigeria is now the 53rd African country that has signed the agreement on Free African Trade Zone, otherwise called, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)
This follows the formal signing of the agreement on Sunday July 7.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the agreement on behalf of the country, at the on-going AU Summit in Niamey.
There was great applause for Nigeria, as soon as President Buhari appended his signature on the document.
The President’s signing of the agreement at exactly 10.48 am local time, came as the very first event at the opening ceremony of the 12th Extra Ordinary Summit of the African Union on launch of the Operational Phase of the AfCFTA.
Nigeria had delayed in signing the agreement, which entered into force on May 30, 2019 to give room for extensive consultations with stakeholders, culminating in the submission of the report by the Presidential Committee to Assess Impact and Readiness of Nigeria to join the free trade area.
The committee had recommended that Nigeria should sign the agreement which aims to boost intra-African trade.
In their remarks after the signing of the agreement by Nigeria and Benin republic on Sunday, both the AU Chairman, Abdel Fattah el-Sisis, who is also the President of Egypt and his counterpart, Mahmadou Issoufou, of Niger Republic, who doubles as the host of the summit, commended Nigeria for adding value to the agreement.
They said the coming of Nigeria on board, will boost trade across Africa and the rest of the world, as well as make Africa a force to be reckoned with in global business.
Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Nigeria’s Amina Mohammed said Nigeria’s signing of the agreement will now boost trade within and outside the continent.
She said: “I congratulate all those involved in bringing this historic agreement to function. With the signing of the agreement at this Summit, by Nigeria and Benin, it is deeply gratifying to see that this will bring together all African Union member States under an umbrella of trade. It will improve production and will cement African countries’ desire to achieve the SDG agenda on one Africa- ‘The Africa we want.”
Mohammed said the UN was ready to cooperate with Africa as it moves to achieve the objectives of the agreement as well as help finance regional integration.
“We are already working with 16 African governments to develope national strategies to maximise the opportunities created by this agreement and will increase this number from next year.
“We are committed to working with African institutions to mobilise the resources that will be required for full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area. In the first instance, the African Regional Integration Trust Fund will support countries to mobilise resources to finance regional integration.”
She however said to achieve the full potentials of the agreement there is need for infrastructural development and many more technicalities that need to be strengthened.
Commenting on the step taken by Nigeria, African Union’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert M. Muchanga Said:
“We have fifty-two signatory states so far. Nigeria and Benin have just signed. We expect Eritrea to follow suit soon so that all fifty-five African Union member states become signatories.
“We have twenty-five ratifications so far. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea have just deposit their instruments of ratification at this Summit. With these, we now have twenty-six ratifications, leaving us with twenty-nine states to deposit instruments of ratification, including the only country yet to sign.”
Twenty four countries have already ratified the AfCFTA which is expected to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization with a potential market of 1.2 billion people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion, across all 55 member states of the African Union.