Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says the African Free Continental Trade Area (AfCTA) agreement will not be hindered by Nigeria’s reluctance to sign up to the process.
Obasanjo spoke in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the opening session of the stakeholders’ dialogue on continental trade and strengthening the implementation of the AfCTA.
The dialogue was organised by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA).
The former president was reacting to concerns raised by one of the discussants, on the need for stakeholders to look into the implications of AfCTA without Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy.
He said Nigeria should resolve its “domestic problems” and not bring such to the AU.
Nigeria, Benin and Eritrea are the only countries on the continent yet to sign the AfCTA agreement.
The agreement has, however, achieved the minimum number of ratification, 22 countries, needed for its implementation.
Obasanjo, who recalled that Nigeria took over the processes leading to the AfCTA agreement from Egypt, wondered why it suddenly halted signing the agreement.
“It is nobody’s fault if your country cannot resolve its domestic problem,” Obasanjo said.
“If you (Nigeria) is not signing the agreement, it is unfortunate. AfCTA will go on without Nigeria. You will recall that this is the first time since 1976 that Nigeria is not at the table of a major continental process. Nigeria should settle its problem at home and not bring it to the AU.”
Obasanjo also said feelers from the AfCTA remain positive, adding that meetings would be extended to other stakeholders, including Africa’s central banks, customs and security agencies.
He said the removal of trade barriers does not mean the removal of other statutory agencies at various national border posts.
He, however, commended the issuance of visas at the point of entry by some African countries, saying the gesture was a positive step in the direction towards the movement of people across the continent.
AfCFTA is a trade agreement between 49 AU member states, with the goal of creating a single market followed by free movement and a single-currency union.
The AfCTA is expected to help African countries eliminate high tariffs and enhance intra-African trade.
The Gambia was the 22nd country to ratify the agreement, a year after it was first introduced while Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has not reached a decision on its participation in the agreement.
President Muhammadu Buhari had backed out saying the country he could not sign agreements without understanding the terms.
“Already, some of the treaties we are party to have been significantly abused, resulting in massive smuggling which has crippled many of our local industries and destroyed millions of jobs,” Buhari had said.
“To avoid these past mistakes, we conducted vast consultations across the country in which the LCCI participated. The responses have been mixed.”