Barely one month to the commencement of the dreamed liberalization of the African market, courtesy of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, Africa’s biggest economy cum biggest market, Nigeria, will be ratifying the Agreement – after a many months of deliberations and consultations.
The Federal Executive council (FEC), Nigeria’s highest decision-making body, Wednesday, approved the ratification of the AfCFTA Agreement. Following this approval, Nigeria’s Minister of Justice is expected to prepare the instrument of ratification for the Nigerian President’s signature and subsequent deposition at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
It would be recalled that it was on 7 July 2019 that Nigeria signed the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA, becoming one of the last countries to commit to the deal; specifically the 53rd out of 55 AU Member States to sign the Agreement. As the largest economy on the continent, Nigeria’s decision to sign the deal is a huge boost to the extraordinary pact. The Agreement has so far been ratified by at least 30 African Union member states with Angola being the last to do so.
Nigeria’s long-awaited ratification of the AfCFTA came sixteen months after it had signed the trade deal. Its unending delays in ratifying it is thanks to the Nigerian government’s series of consultations with the country’s trade and industry stakeholders, on the threats presented to the country by the operationalization of the AfCFTA, namely, the rise in smuggling, import surge arising from trade liberalisation without corresponding growth in export of Nigerian products, and ultimately, the fears that the deal would turn Nigeria into a “dumping ground” for non-African goods.
Accordingly, after the far-reaching a discussions with stakeholders, the Nigerian government has now approved the ratification of the Agreement. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the AfCFTA is, by the number of its participating countries, the largest trade agreement since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
It is believed the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement would expand intra-African trade by between 53 to 60 percent by 2022 – thanks to better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation across the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the continent in general. After the disruptions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic forced a delay of the implementation of the Agreement, initially set for July, the first commercial deal under the AfCFTA is now expected to take place on January 1, 2021.