With less than ten days to go before the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, Ethiopia has become the 18th country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), close to one year since it was launched in Kigali in March 2018.
Even though 44 countries signed the agreement, it only needs 22 ratifications to bring the agreement into force. There is an air of expectation that when the Heads of State meet sometime next week, the AfCFTA will come into force.
Many of the countries that have been holding out have individual reasons but the most widely shared is protectionism. One country in particular that did not sign the treaty was Nigeria, it buckled at the last minute due to pressure, especially from small scale enterprises.
Another far more important and influential sector – Industrialists led by billionaire Aliko Dangote – is exerting pressure on the government to sign. Signing could alienate some section of the electorate with the presidential elections just around the corner; but that is just speculation.
The good news is that the government has sent signals that it is not whether it will sign the treaty but when. This is the time for African economies to get out of the deep slumber countries have wallowed in for more than half a decade.
African nations need to look at the bigger picture since having a larger market is more important than small geopolitical interests and outside influences that will not bring food on their populations’ table.