Lago — Representatives of 44 countries out of 55 member countries of the African Union (AU) have signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) pact in Kigali, Rwanda.
The signing ceremony took place yesterday during the 10th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union on the AfCFTA held in Kigali without Nigeria and South Africa, the two biggest economies on the continent.
With the signing the deal, the participating countries will remove tariffs on 90 per cent of goods while the excluded 10 per cent of sensitive goods will be included in future.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, received the legal instruments signed by 44 African countries.
It was not immediately clear why South Africa and Nigeria stayed on the sidelines. Others staying out of the bloc were Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, Reuters news agency said.
The signing of the deal by 44 countries means individual countries would now ratify the agreement in line with their sovereign laws, which will come into force if 15 to 25 countries out of the 55 AU member countries approve it.
The deal envisages that the free trade zone to be created by participating countries will boost inter-African trade estimated at 10 per cent at the moment.
The AU hopes that the deal will also speed up the process of a single currency for the intra-continental trade and free movement of Africans on the continent.
The withdrawal of Nigeria, with a population of about 196 million people as at 2018, may rattle the African Union, considering that the free trade area targets Africa's 1.3 billion people.
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has called on the federal government to reconsider the National position on the European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) vis-a-vis the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) especially on tariff lines of products on the sensitive/exclusion list, with a view to ensuring that the EU-EPA is not reintroduced through the AfCFTA's back door.
The President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Frank Udemba Jacobs yesterday said the federal government should immediately set in motion a process that will enable all stakeholders on the international trade value chain in Nigeria to quickly review the text of the draft AfCFTA agreement and come up with comments on areas that are not in the best interest of the Nigerian economy and sectors.
He also called on the government to consider tariff lines rates along the line of efficiency, sectorial and sub-sectorial preferences that would be most beneficial to Nigerian businesses under the AfCFTA dispensation, with a view to ensuring that the EU-EPA is not reintroduced through the AfCFTA's back door.