Nigeria has been called upon to reconsider its reluctance to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, some economic analysts said in separate interviews in Addis Ababa.
The analysts argued that AfCFTA is in the national interest of Nigeria and wondered why Nigeria suddenly decided to suspend signing the agreement, after being its champion for long.
Those who spoke with NAN included David Luke, Coordinator of African Trade Policy Centre, Regional Integration and Trade Division, and Stephen Njuguna Karingi, the Director at the Integration and Trade Division, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Others are Yinka Adeyemi, Senior Advisor and Head, Regional Integration and Infrastructure, at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Capacity Development Division, and Jim Ocitti, Director of Public Information and Knowledge Management Division at the ECA.
Ayo Teriba, professor of economics and CEO of Economic Associates, in a telephone conversation with NAN, also shed lights on why AfCFTA is in Nigeria’s best interest.
Nigeria officially delayed signing the framework agreement for establishing the AfCFTA following misgivings by local stakeholders, in spite of approval by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Pointing out that what the Nigerian government has done is to delay signing, Teriba stressed that there is no way the country would not eventually assent to the AfCFTA agreement.
“This pact is Nigeria’s initiative. Nigeria will sign it. The country only needs stakeholder buy-in to sign the pact. It is a delay, not a denial or refusal. Nigeria will eventually sign up,” he said.
Meanwhile, NAN reports that the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry will on Thursday, May 24, in Lagos, hold a stakeholders Forum on the AfCFTA agreement.
The Forum is expected to provide a platform for the private sector stakeholders to discuss and analyse likely effects of the agreement on business and investments in Nigeria.
The outcome of the deliberations at the Forum would form a basis for a private sector advocacy engagement on the agreement.
Also, plans may have been concluded by the ECA to seize the opportunity of the annual Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Conference, to encourage Nigeria’s ratification of the AfCFTA agreement.
NAN reports that the opportunity will come under special session, titled: ‘AfCFTA and Transformative Industrialisation in Nigeria’.
Adeyemi disclosed that during the conference, plans have been concluded to bring in stakeholders in Nigeria’s private sector, including the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).
Others include the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company, among others.
“We have a report, titled ‘CFTA in the Context of Transformative Industrialisation’. We have serious evidence that this agreement is good for Nigeria,” he said.
According to Adeyemi, it is possible that Nigeria will appear, in the short run, losing some tariff in revenue earnings at the ports, but the figure, 60 per cent, is unlikely.
“The UNCTAD says trading countries will lose about four billion dollars, in the short run, but in the long run, there will be 16 billion dollars in gain.
“The major fear, however, is the rules of origin.
“Technically, China can dump cheap and inferior goods in Nigeria through a third country; as if those goods come from Africa. These goods will be duty free.
“Nigeria will lose tariff, but other countries to which Nigeria is sending goods will also lose.
“However, the idea is for countries like Nigeria to export vigorously. But you have to produce first. Nigeria may have to answer to its domestic infrastructural challenges, especially power if it intends to maximise AfCFTA possibilities,” he said.
NAN reports that the AfCFTA technically arose out of Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty.
Adeyemi said: “It is immoral for us not to sign the agreement. It is like spitting on the grave of Prof. Adebayo Adedeji, the pioneer chief executive of the ECA.
“Do you think, for example, Innoson Motors would be happy with you?
“We have 1.2 billion people and over $2 trillion GDP in Africa.
“What is Nigeria afraid of?
Luke, Karingi and Ocitti spoke in similar veins on the agreement, which will not take off until at least 22 countries ratify it.
As of Sunday, NAN reports that only Kenya, Ghana, Niger and Rwanda had ratified the agreement.
According to Karingi, the purpose of the 2018 ‘Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development’ is to address those concerns as identified by stakeholders.
“One thing for sure, we wouldn’t have come this far in discussion without the leadership of Nigeria. I have no doubt that Nigeria will ratify the agreement before the last of the remaining 44 countries.
“What is happening in the case of Nigeria is that the country feels it needs more time to consult with domestic stakeholders.
“Of course, we are still talking to Nigeria. And it is reassuring that that many Nigerians, in their individual capacities, would like to see Nigeria ratify the agreement immediately.
“We have been doing a lot of advocacy in the West Africa sub region, where Nigeria is a leading country,” he said.
Karingi disclosed that the second round of negotiations comes up in September, enough time for Nigeria to reconsider its stance.
NAN reports that President Muhammadu Buhari cancelled his trip to Kigali, to attend the Extra-Ordinary Summit of the African Union on March 21, meant for the signing of the framework agreement for establishing the AfCFTA.