Africa Will Still Move Forward If Nigeria Does Not Sign AfCFTA ― Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said it is absurd that Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has not signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). He said Africa will still move on, with or without Nigeria.
It has been projected that if all 55 African countries ratify the AfCFTA, this will create a free trade area with over $4 trillion in combined business spending, and a market of 1.2 billion people which is estimated to be over two billion people by 2050. This will be one of the biggest free trade areas ever created.
Obasanjo is the chairman of the Advisory Council of the Intra Africa Trade Fair (IATF), holding in Cairo, Egypt, from December 11 to 17, 2018.
On Sunday, Obasanjo spoke in a session at the maiden IATF in Cairo with delegates, exhibitors and the media.
When asked what needs to be done to get Africa’s biggest economy to join the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, Obasanjo said that the final negotiation was led by Nigeria, taken to the Nigerian executive council and passed, but at the point of signing, “Nigeria one way or the other developed cold feet. I cannot understand it.
“I have said better late than never. I sincerely hope and pray that Nigeria will be at the table before AfCFTA comes into effect.”
He said it would be a “bad thing” for Nigeria to be absent from the agreement. He, however, said that with or without Nigeria, Africa will cope.
“I went around the pavilions, and Nigeria’s pavilion was fantastic and large with SMEs and government. But how can you be talking about Intra Africa trade when you are not a part of the Africa Continental Trade Agreement? It is absurd. I will say that maybe the signs are getting clearer to the present government of Nigeria that you cannot absent yourself from what is the way for the rest of Africa.
“And don’t forget we started this from 1963, and in all other things Nigeria has been in the forefront – Lagos Plan of Action, NEPAD, ECOWAS, and everything. So, what has gone wrong?”’
He said there was a need for the authorities concerned to get a correct understanding of the matter.
Referring to the Afreximbank President, Obasanjo said, “You have somebody like Professor Oramah. Maybe someday somebody will call him and say ‘Hey, come and talk to us about this. You are there, and whatever we may not know, tell us.’”
Mark Eddo, the anchor of the session, suggested public fear was driving Nigeria’s reluctance to which the Advisory Council chairman responded thus: “You call it fear, why should there be fear for a country that is almost one-quarter of the population of Africa? What should be the fear of a country that is the largest economy in Africa?
“In all honesty, I hope Nigeria will soon join.”
Obasanjo said AfCFTA was the salvation that Africa needed to change its perception because, through it, the living standards of Africans would rise.
He said the reference to African countries as ‘shitholes’ should not be taken lightly. “We have to do something about the perception of Africa by the rest of the world. I don’t mind what anybody says about me, but I need to prove to the rest of the world that I am much a human being as they are. And the only way that that can be done is to lift the standard of living of every African on the continent of Africa. That will not happen if we swim separately. It will only happen if we swim together.”
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