AfCFTA: Long route to continental integration as Nigeria comes on board

Bimbola Oyesola

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy on July 7, 2019, signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) agreement, expected to improve intra-African trade, enhance economic growth and sustainable development.

Nigeria became the 53rd country to join the African Continental Free Trade Area  after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the AfCFTA Agreement at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union on the launch of the Operational Phase of the AfCFTA in Niamey, Niger Republic.

The Republic of Benin also joined the group, bringing to 54, the total of African countries out of 55 that had endorsed the AfCFTA agreement, with Eritrea as the only nation yet to sign.

As at the day Nigeria sign, a total of 26 African countries have deposited instruments of ratification, with Gabon being the latest after depositing its instrument of ratification during the Extraordinary Summit.

The AfCFTA Agreement came into force on May 30, 2019, thirty days after having received the twenty-second instrument of ratification on 29th April 2019 in conformity with legal provisions.

It aims to bring all 55 members of the African Union (AU) together in a single market of 1.2 billion people by removing trade barriers such as tariffs across Africa.

The deal is expected to boost regional trade and allow companies to expand and enter new markets. Regrettably, manufacturing industry currently accounts for only about 10 per cent of the African Union’s combined GDP of $3.4 trillion and the trade deal, is believed could make the sector more competitive and productive.

The first step of the deal is to cut tariffs for goods from countries within the bloc but the timeframe to do this is yet to be announced.

The African Union says that the African Continental Free Trade Area – called AfCFTA – will create the world’s largest free trade area.

It also estimates that implementing AfCFTA will lead to about 60 per cent boost in intra-African trade by 2022.

Only 16 per cent of international trade by African countries takes place between African countries, according to research by the African Development Bank in 2014 .

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