Eritrea, Nigeria, G-Bissau yet to commit to Africa free trade deal

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Africa’s most populous nation
and biggest economy, Nigeria, Eritrea and Guinea Bissau are the only
African nations that are yet to make any commitment to the African
Union’s Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
According to the A.U. Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki
Mahamat, these three have made no commitment to the deal signed in
Kigali in March 2018. The A.U. chief said the body’s projection was to
have all nations on board so that the AfCFTA could enter into force in
January 2019.
On the flip side, six African countries have since ratified the deal
whiles the vast majority of countries have only signed it. The six are:
Rwanda, Niger, Chad, Kenya, Ghana and Swaziland (eSwatini.)
Three others – Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana – have only signed the
Kigali Declaration but have yet to sign the deal and deposit instruments
of ratification with the A.U.
Back in Kigali, 44 of the 55 African Union Heads of State and
Government enacted the AfCFTA at its 10th Extraordinary Session, under
the leadership of Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou.
The Kigali declaration as it is known was also witnessed by
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda as current AU Chairperson and
Chairperson of the AU Commission.
Nigeria and South Africa’s refusal to join from the beginning raised
issues with the deal given that the two were the continent’s economic
powerhouses.
South Africa subsequently signed the deal but Nigeria insisted that
it was doing broader consultations back home before any concrete
decision is made. President Buhari recently intimated that he would sign
the deal soon.
Once in force AfCFTA will be the largest trade zone in the world,
increase intra-African trade by 52% by the year 2022, remove tariffs on
90% of goods, liberalise services and tackle other barriers to
intra-African trade, such as long delays at border posts.
It will be one of the biggest free trade bloc in the world, maybe only behind the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The signing of the AfCFTA by heads of governments and or their
representatives is only a step in chasing an ambitious dream of uniting
Africa at the level of commerce.
Experts and watchers say, the real work is yet to take off, all
things being equal. The fact that after all this while, some countries
decided to hold on to ratification is not as much a setback but speaks
to the challenges that lay ahead.