As Nigeria continues dilly-dallying on its plan to sign the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, Zambia and Botswana yesterday took the bold step to beat Africa’s largest economhy and Zimbabwe to the race.
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) recently reiterated its position that the Federal Government should not sign the AfCFTA until wide reaching sensitization and proper assessment are conducted on its impact on the economy and the manufacturing sector.
MAN President, Engr. Mansur Ahmed, reaffirmed the need for government to do proper assessment of the impact to ascertain how beneficial AfCFTA would be to Nigeria and provide necessary adjustment costs as well as competitiveness enhancing infrastructure before deciding whether to sign or not.
He, however, said that the Presidential Committee inaugurated to assess the continental trade agreement is expected to submit its report this month.
Ahmed stated that the MAN advocacy on AfCFTA is yielding desired results.
“We are confident that the eventual position of Nigeria on the AfCFTA Framework agreement would be well articulated in a fresh National Negotiation Mandate that is in the best interest of the manufacturing sector and indeed the Nigerian economy while paying utmost attention to emerging issues on AfCFTA and ensure that the industrial aspiration of the country is not compromised on the platter of free trade,’’ he added.
While Zambia and Botswana have joined the AfCFTA, Zimbabwe, another South African country has shelved its plans to join the Continental Free Trade Area.
Just like Nigeria, Zimbabwe declined to sign the agreement because it was to find space to stabilise local industries which are struggling to produce enough quality goods to compete outside.
The Zimbabwean Industry and commerce ministry’s director of international trade, Beatrice Mutetwa, said while addressing parliamentarians that more time, like 15 years, would be required out of the AfCFTA because the country`s local industry is not producing enough to be able to compete with other countries.
Mutetwa said Zimbabwe was in a peculiar position and needed to work towards achieving an even landscape.
Member countries are requested to open up 90 percent of their markets, but Zimbabwe had only offered up 85 percent as considerations are still being made on how the key sectors including; tourism and mining will be protected.
Meanwhile, Botswana and Zambia have signed the AfCFTA agreement meant to create one African market at the just-ended Africa Union Summit.
Botswana and Zambia were among the countries that had not signed the AfCFTA following its establishment on 21 March, 2018 in Rwanda, Kigali.
The delay, was largely attributed to negotiation on some of the protocols of the AfCFTA, as the countries wanted to consult stakeholders before appending.
Briefing journalists upon his return from the just-ended AU Summit, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, said he signed the agreement in the presence of African Union Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki, and outgoing AU chairperson, Paul Kagame. He said the agreement would give Botswana the opportunity to benefit from inter-regional trade within the African continent, and greatly contribute to the growth and diversification of the country’s economy.
“We have received the documents so that we can rectify the agreement,” he said.
Masisi said Botswana recognises the importance of the agreement as one that will liberalise trade of both goods and services for all African countries.
The AfCFTA aims to create a market of 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product of US$2.5 trillion, across all AU member states.
The Continental Free Trade Agreement is expected to provide Botswana access to the African market estimated at 1.6 billion people in 55 countries. This means a wider and increased market access for Botswana exports; among which are live animals, beef, salt, vaccines for veterinary medicine, minerals and leather products.