Nigeria To Join Africa Free Trade Zone, Trade Minister Says

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy, is yet to join the new pan-African trade zone that aims to cut tariffs on 90 percent of goods, but the country is expected to do so with the agreement coming into effect at the end of May.

Nigeria remains one of only three African countries out of 55 yet to sign the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, but that could be set to change, according to Fin24.

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Only Eritrea, Benin and Nigeria have not yet signed the agreement, with 29 of the African countries yet to ratify the new trade zone deal.

The required 22 countries ratified the agreement in April and it is set to come into effect on May 30.

Intra-African trade was worth about $170 billion in 2017, but accounts for around 15 percent of the continent’s trade, FT reports.

By comparison, intra-continental trade is at 67 percent in the European Union and 58 percent in Asia.

Africa Free Trade
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame consults with other African heads of state before signing the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Agreement during the 10th Extraordinary Session of the African Union (AU) in Kigali. AP Photo

Designed to boost intra-Africa trade, the African Continental Free Trade Area aims to slash tariffs on 90 percent of goods across a market of 1.2 billion people, according to Moneyweek.

Nigeria to join Africa Free Trade Zone

The African Union, which introduced the agreement in March 2018, has urged Nigeria to sign up.

Nigeria’s minister of industry, trade and investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, said that his country would sign the trade deal as soon as President Muhammadu Buhari approves an impact-assessment report he commissioned, Bloomberg reports.

It is unlikely that the West African country will be among the founding members when the deal begins at the end of May, but the trade minister said that Buhari was treating the matter with “a sense of urgency”.

Buhari was initially weary of the new trade deal, concerned that free trade could hurt the Nigerian domestic market which already benefits from more than 190 million people, Brookings reports.

Nigeria had an estimated GDP of $376.3 billion in 2017, making it Africa’s largest economy, according to Businesstech.