Nigeria will sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement when the AU holds an extraordinary Summit on July 7 in Niamey, Niger, Abuja has announced—signalling even more hope to bring down barriers to trade.
Specifically, the deal is expected to bring to an end tariffs and import quotas on the continent.
The Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Tuesday tweeted that Nigeria will sign the agreement at the upcoming Extraordinary Summit of the AU in Niamey.
When the agreement officially came into force on May 30, only three countries – Nigeria, Benin, and Eritrea had not signed the agreement.
“Nigeria is signing the #AfCFTA Agreement after extensive domestic consultations, and is focused on taking advantage of ongoing negotiations to secure the necessary safeguards against smuggling, dumping and other risks/threats,” Abuja tweeted.
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria is quoted saying: “Let me state unequivocally that trade is important for us as a nation and to all nations. Economic progress is what makes the world go around. Our position is very simple, we support free trade as long as it is fair and conducted on an equitable basis.”
Amb. Albert Muchanga, Commissioner for Trade and Industry at the African Union Commission, described Nigeria’s expected signing in the next few days as a “good and important development.”
“Two more to go and an All Africa Market will start shaping up,” he said.
The coming into force of the agreement, experts said, was a turning point for the continent.
The deal brings together all 55 AU member states covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class, and a combined gross domestic product of more than $3.4 trillion.
In terms of numbers of participating countries, the AfCFTA will be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation, 24 years ago, of the World Trade Organization, an intergovernmental organization that deals with the global rules of trade between nations.
Estimates from the Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) suggest that the AfCFTA has the potential both to boost intra-African trade by 52.3 percent by eliminating import duties, and to double this trade if non-tariff barriers are also reduced.
Andrew Mold, the Acting Director of the UNECA Eastern Africa Sub-regional office, described the development from one of Africa's two biggest economies – after South Africa – as “great news!”
Mold said: “Without them [Nigeria] on board it wouldn’t have worked. Benin will sign up now too. The only issue is going to be Eritrea – and we are holding our annual meeting in Asmara in a few months’ time.”