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I Will Sign AfCTA Soon – PMB



…AfCFTA earmarks $25bn for Nigeria, Others

President Muhammadu Buhari is set to rescind his earlier decision not to sign the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), saying he will sign the agreement very soon.

LEADEDSHIP recalls that Buhari had earlier said Nigeria would not agree to anything that would undermine local manufacturers and entrepreneurs while explaining his last-minute withdrawal from signing the AfCFTA. He noted that the economic and security implications of Nigeria signing the deal needed further deliberation.

However, in a joint press briefing yesterday with South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is on a state visit to Nigeria, President Buhari assured that he would soon append his signature to the document. According to him, he is very wary about signing agreements or documents.

“I am very careful about what I sign, whether it is my cheque book or agreements especially when it involves nation states,” he said. On if he has been convinced to sign the trade agreements, he said, “We are so populated and have so many young unemployed citizens and our industries are just coming up.

“So, in trying to guarantee employment, goods and services in our country, we have to be careful with agreements that will compete, maybe successfully, against our upcoming industries.

“I was presented with the document. I am a very slow reader, maybe because I was a soldier. I didn’t read it fast enough before my officials saw that it was all right for signature. I kept it on my table. I will soon sign it.”

The president’s earlier decision not to sign the agreement was hailed by over 3,000 Nigerian manufacturers under their umbrella body, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), saying the deal would lead to gross unemployment at home as most local companies would die “a quicker death.”

The $3 trillion continental free-trade zone, encompassing 1.2 billion people, was accepted by 44 countries this year during the African Union Summit , but Nigeria and South Africa, Africa’s biggest economies, did not sign up.

South Africa eventually signed the agreement.

Meanwhile, the president of African Export Import (AFREXIM) Bank, Benedict Oranmah, has said the bank has committed the sum of $25 billion for disbursement to support African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and intra-African trade in Nigeria and other African countries by the end of 2021. The bank will also champion, alongside the AU, the first ever Intra-African Trade Fair that will be held in Cairo in December this year. The AFREXIM CEO said the bank has an intra-African trade strategy hinged on three pillars: create, connect and deliver.

According to him, the aim is to link the African producers to their buyers by providing logistics that would ensure that manufactured goods get to the market, adding that $8 billion had been disbursed already. “We are creating the infrastructure that will help trade to occur,” Oranmah said, adding that the motive is to attract foreign direct investment through the AfCTA.

The AfCFTA is a treaty that is expected to accelerate the integration of African market, foster regional value chains, promote dynamic comparative advantage across Africa for certain kinds of goods and boost employment.

Speaking at the event that is holding in Abuja, South African President Cyril Ramophosa urged the Nigerian government to sign on to the AfCTA that currently has 44-member countries from the continent on board, while expressing confidence that the conference will develop practical framework that will facilitate Africa’s growth towards achieving the agenda 2063 of the African Union. Ramophosa said other African countries look up to Nigeria and South Africa, hence the need for the two leading economies to sign the agreement in order to show their leadership role.

“As Africans, we should play the role we are endowed to play with innovation and talent which Africa is known for.”

In her response, Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said the federal government was still consulting with the necessary stakeholders before coming out with a decision on the continental trade agreement. Adeosun also called on Afreximbank to invest more in the African continent to promote trade and investment and support more businesses to grow.

“Urgency of now is the message for Africa,” Adeosun said at the event to mark the Annual General Meeting of the bank and its 25th anniversary with theme, ‘Celebrating the past, shaping the future’.

“We are tired of hearing of rhetoric words – Africa’s potential; let us put it into action. As a government we are working to encourage real growth and sustainable trade within the African continent. We must transform our national economies and we must transform trade,” she said.

The Afreximbank president said the anniversary was significant because it marks 25 years after the bank was established at the time African economic difficulties struck in 1980s.

“Poverty became rife, wars and counter coups were high. It was like the continent was going to implode. It was in that context that African Development Bank championed the establishment of Afrexim, a bank that has done about $50 billion of investments. We are pleased that the emergency funds were able to achieve the desired results,” Oranmah stated.





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