Sign Africa free trade pact, Ramaphosa urges Buhari
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa urged his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari to sign a continent-wide free-trade deal which Nigerian led to negotiate before backing out.
Nigeria should take its time to consult on the agreement before signing up, but shouldn’t “take too long,” Ramaphosa said at a conference in the West African nation’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday.
The government says it is consulting local business groups some of which have voiced reservations about the deal but many local manufacturers insist the pact is good for the continent’s largest economy.
“The continent is waiting for Nigeria and South Africa. By trading among ourselves, we are able to retain more resources in the continent.”
Talks to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area with a combined gross domestic product of more than $3 trillion started in 2015 and in May Ghana and Kenya became the first countries to ratify the deal.
Ramaphosa signed the agreement last week in Mauritania. South Africa will ratify it “soon,” he said.
The AfCFTA is a project driven by the African Union to eliminate tariffs on intra-Africa trade of goods and services and create a single continental market with free movement of business people. It will only become effective once the parliaments of at least 22 members ratify it.
South Africa and Nigeria account for about half of the continent’s GDP.
Nigeria can’t rush signing the deal because it doesn’t want to get things wrong, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said at the conference. Her government is talking to stakeholders including manufacturers, she said.
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