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African free trade pact receives 22 ratifications for implementation

Twenty two countries have so far ratified the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), being the minimum number of countries needed to ratify it before it can be implemented.

The trade pact, initially signed by 44 African heads of state in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018, has gathered enough ratification to enter into force.

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Information from the Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiations indicate that the pact, now consisting of 52 signatories, has received the 22 ratifications needed in order for it to enter into force, with the Gambia being the 22nd country.

Based on Article 23 of the agreement establishing AfCFTA, it will enter into force 30 days after the deposit of the 22nd instrument of ratification.

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Currently, 19 instruments of ratification have been deposited by AfCFTA signatories with Ethiopia being the 19th country to deposit.

Deposits of instruments of ratification are expected from Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Gambia, the remaining countries whose parliaments have already approved ratification of the AfCFTA agreement.

It is expected that more African Union (AU) member states than the required 22 would have deposited instruments of ratification by the time the assembly convenes in July, 2019, in Niamey, Niger Republic.

Nigeria is yet to sign the agreement, having backed out of the pact at the eleventh hour before the last AU meeting in held in Kigali, Rwanda, where 44 countries signed the pact.

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) had raised concerns that the free trade area might likely hurt Nigeria’s industries and affect the economy in general.

However, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) backed the pact with the view that it would advance business on the African continent.

President Muhammadu Buhari called off Nigeria’s initial intention to sign the pact to allow for more consultation locally.

The Director General of the Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiations, Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, organised consultations across the country on the basis of which the president would be advised to either sign or completely jettison the trade pact.

It is still unclear what Nigeria’s final decision would be, but it appears now that whether Nigeria signs and ratifies the pact or not, the free trade area would be implemented by other African countries.

 

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