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AU summit: South Africa signs #AfCFTA; Nigeria holds out


49 nations now signed up, 6 to go!

By tajudeen Hamzat


Further progress was recorded in the effort to establish the world’s largest Free Trade Area, with South Africa and four other countries signing up to the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, #AfCFTA at the 31st Summit of Heads of States of the African Union held in Nouakchott, Mauritania, at the weekend.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa signed for his country.

The South African leader who had attended the Kigali summit in March where the agreement was presented had at that point pleaded with his fellow African leaders to accept his and his nation’s commitment of interest but declined signing the Continental Free Trade Agreement when it was then presented.

However, on Sunday, after having declined doing so at the special summit in Kigali in March, where 44 out of the 55 AU member states signed, Ramaphosa and South Africa have now joined in the party.

The South Africans who explained that their initial hedging was in order to run the agreement by their own law advisers some more, have also consented to taking the agreement to be ratified in the SA Parliament which is the second phase of the process before returning the ratified document to the AU secretariat. Forward-looking countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Ghana have already completed all three steps.

And with South Africa’s signing, its Customs Union partners, Lesotho and Namibia also signed the agreement on Sunday, along with Sierra Leone, which was in fervent election mood at the time of the first presentation, and Burundi, which has really not been the best friend of Rwanda that had hosted the first signing party!

However, Nigerian foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama is still talking of the need to conclude its internal consultations process before committing.

Analysts however say that the Nigerian delay simply means that South Africa now has a head-start in the process of reaping the dividends from the 1.2billion population, and $2.5trillion value AfCFTA zone given that it is the biggest economy to have signed the agreement so far.

This is especially so given that South Africa ‘exported US$23.5 billion worth of goods to the rest of Africa in 2017 and imported only US$8.6 billion, racking up a huge trade surplus of US$14.9 billion.’

Other than Nigeria, the five states that are yet to sign the treaty are Botswana, Zambia, Eritrea, Benin and Guinea Bissau. Analysts however say that they are not likely to hold out for much longer.


South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa



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