Nigeria News

Nigeria’s Weak Response To African Free Trade

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Nigeria News takes a look at the way the Federal Government is handling the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA.

A few days ago, there was a conference on Nigeria’s foreign policy. Very sadly, it did not get to the heart of the matter as would have been expected. And our foreign policy projections today remain very weak.

There is no better exposure of this challenge than the tardy way we continue to respond to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA. For a country that is the ‘natural African leader,’ it is most depressing that about the single most important pan-Africanist aspiration on the continent since the formation of the OAU (now AU) in 1963 and the accelerated drive for the decolonisation of the continent (spanning the 1970s through the 1990s) is being so shabbily treated.

Even more galling is the fact that not only were these two developments carried out with very active Nigerian inputs, even the blueprint for the current AfCFTA move is traceable to the founding (with heavy Nigerian input) of ECOWAS as about the first post-colonial African Regional Economic Community in the 1970s, the Lagos Plan of Action of 1980, the 1991 Abuja Treaty, and the coming into force of the African Economic Community, AEC.

Today, the AfCFTA train is moving on very swiftly and Nigeria lags. 49 of the continent’s 55 states have signed up, 18 have ratified and AfCFTA will kick off in the next few days, with or without Nigeria!

And as a further testament of the depth of the hole that we have presently dug ourselves into, 9 of the 16 states of West Africa have not only ratified the agreement, our own sub-region by contributing half of the ratifications so far secured, has established its position as the leading driver of the AfCFTA process. All without its own ‘big brother’ that accounts for some 70 percent of both the population and economic capacity of the sub-region!

This is a monumental travesty that has to be corrected now! This is one of the foreign policies that the present administration has failed to key into. In a way, this has drastically affected the foreign direct investment in the country, even at a time the government is making effort to build infrastructure.

AfCFTA, if allowed by the government would have not only improved the bilateral relationship of Nigeria with many other African countries, it would have aided President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic diversification agenda.

Nigeria is redirecting its economy to agriculture. The country will need its African neighbouring countries whose main source of income is through agriculture to develop this sector.

Of course, the export of developed farming system is welcome, the Federal Government should realise that Africa, despite large expanse of land still remains the major market for agricultural produce.

None of the big political parties, that is the ruling All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party have said anything on AfCFTA since they began their campaigns.

On Tuesday, the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar said that he would make Lagos the economic capital of Africa if voted in. This is a welcome development if only it would translate into signing into AfCFTA.

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